In August, Indiana Judge Michael Keele used the U.S. Supreme Court’s money-laundering rationale for vouchers (see p. 1) to evade his state constitution’s ban on government aid for religious schools.
Art.1, Sec. 4 of the Indiana Constitution says, “No person shall be compelled to…support any place of worship…against his consent.”
Teacher Teresa Meredith and others thought Indiana’s broad new voucher program infringed that section. They sued to overturn the ac.
However, Judge Keele held the section “less about restricting government’s use of general tax revenues and more about protecting citizens from forced tithing or…similar government-coerced…support for …ministries.”
He ruled that, with a secular objective, the state could give general tax revenues to anyone who in turn to donate the cash to a ministry or pay tuition to a religious school.
Framers of the Indiana Constitution included three sections to prevent government support of private and/or religious schools. Keele interpreted Art. 1, Sec. 6 to nullify Art. 1, Sec. 4.
Because Section 6 forbids use of general tax revenues “for the benefit of religious institutions,” Keele said, the framers could not have intended Section 4 to ban the same act.
Keele then disabled Sec. 6. He said the legislature had created the vouchers for the benefit of students, not religious bodies.
Art. 8, Sec. 1 orders the General Assembly to encourage moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement and “to provide by law for a general and uniform system of common schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.” [italics added]
Keele said the word and meant the Assembly could create educational programs in addition to the uniform system of common schools.
Before Indiana’s 1851 constitutional convention, the legislature funded some private schools.
At the state constitutional convention, the delegates considered an amendment to prohibit public funding of schools “other than district or township schools,” but they did not pass it.
When the legislature met under the new constitution, it created the public school system, as instructed, but continued to fund some private schools.
Judge Keele deduced that the framers of the Indiana Constitution could not have meant to deny public funds to private schools.
Plaintiffs pointed out that the private schools were not equally open to all, and the judge said the words “open to all” applied only to public schools.
The Institute for Justice, a pro-voucher legal group, has intervened on behalf of Indiana families who want vouchers.