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Friday, October 11, 2013

Tax Dollars Given to Anti-Gay Religious Schools

From Rolling Stone:

Many Christian schools in Georgia and across the nation have similar policies, sometimes explicitly written into a pledge that students or their parents must sign when they enroll. At certain schools, a student need not even engage in acts of sexual "impurity"; simply identifying as gay or acting in support of a gay friend can lead to dismissal. "The Academy reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a student . . . participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning pornography, sexual­ immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support . . . the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle," reads the "Academy/Home Partnering Agreement" at Providence Christian in Lilburn, Georgia, a school with religious underpinnings ... "No 'immoral act' or 'identifying statements' concerning fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality or pornography will be tolerated," warns the Cherokee Christian Schools in Woodstock, Georgia. "Such behavior will constitute grounds for expulsion."

... But since homosexuality is an identity rather than an action, it cuts deeper and is believed to have a greater power to corrupt. Such a "choice" must be rooted out and eradicated. This stance has the potential to have a devastating effect, not just in Georgia (where pastors in Cobb County recently decided to sever their affiliations with the Boy Scouts of America after the organization made the decision to permit the participation of openly gay scouts) but throughout the country, where gay students in many states have faced disapprobation or even expulsion. ...

As religious institutions, these schools have the legal right to uphold and enforce any faith-based belief system they please. ...  However, by exploiting recent legislation, Christian schools in Georgia that openly discriminate against gay students have been receiving millions of dollars in diverted public funds as a result of a 2008 law meant to provide funding to help low­income children transfer to private schools. ...

Georgia, along with 11 other states (Arizona, Pennsylvania, Florida, Rhode Island, Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, New Hampshire, Louisiana and, most recently, Alabama), has adopted laws – sometimes referred to as "neovouchers" – to grant dollar-for-dollar tax credits to people who donate money to provide children with scholarships to private schools. In theory, such a plan has the potential to help a lot of students, but in practice, especially in deeply religious places like Georgia, it has also meant that millions of dollars have been redirected from public funds to privately run Student Scholarship Organizations, which can then funnel the money to schools with strict anti-gay policies. Because the money goes straight to the SSO and never actually enters the public coffers, it's free and clear of being considered a "public fund" – allowing church and state to technically be kept separate. All of which may sound fishy, but consider this: It's fully legal because the laws make it so. And, as the school-choice movement gains ground, it's certain that other states will soon pass similar legislation.

... Georgia House Bill 1133, which introduced the Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit, is the only SSO legislation in the country that was formulated without requiring organizations to take family income into account when choosing who will receive a scholarship, nor does it keep track of who gets them. A 2011 amendment makes it a criminal offense to disclose who donates SSO money, how much they donate, or which schools receive these donations, making any knowledge about where the money goes so shrouded in mystery that the Society of Professional Journalists awarded HB 1133 the Black Hole Award, for "the most heinous violations of the public's right to know."

Nevertheless, after the law went into effect, more than $230 million in tax credits have been awarded to taxpayers in Georgia who have made SSO donations. And since at least 115 private schools affiliated with SSOs in the state have explicit anti-gay policies or belong to associations that condemn homosexuality, it's clear that much of that money has gone to private schools that consider homosexuality not only a sin but also a perversion from which the rest of their students must be shielded. Meanwhile, two of the seven agencies that grant private schools accreditation promote an anti-gay sentiment.

Read more:
The Hidden War Against Gay Teens

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