Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a disturbing ruling that will likely open the door to more taxpayer aid to private religious schools.
As Americans United has noted, one of the problems with vouchers is that they force taxpayers to prop up private schools that engage in blatant forms of discrimination.
An example of this is playing out in Indianapolis, where officials with the Catholic Archdiocese have implemented policies that will effectively ban transgender students from attending parochial schools in central and southern Indiana – even though many of its schools are receiving taxpayer support under Indiana’s voucher program. This new policy was enacted at the beginning of the month and was influenced by a document released by the Vatican in 2019 that declared being transgender antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The new policy states that “any student whose ‘gender’ has been legally changed from their biological sex, or who has chemically and/or surgically altered their given biology, may not be eligible for enrollment” in the schools controlled by the Archdiocese. The policy goes on to declare that students must dress in accordance with their biological sex at birth, must use the restroom of their biological sex at birth and must use the pronouns that match their sex at birth – policies that essentially force transgender students to erase their identity.
Students who struggle with gender issues are told that they should seek assistance from pastors and trained professionals “who might best assist them in clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexuality) identity in accordance with Catholic Church teaching” – in other words, stop being transgender.
The new policy isn’t the first time that the Indianapolis Archdiocese has discriminated against people based on their sexual identity. Last year the Archdiocese fired a number of LGBTQ identifying teachers and staff members, as well as a social worker who worked at one of the schools and who criticized the Archdiocese for its conduct.
Indiana has the biggest voucher program in the country. This means that religious schools – which answer to church officials and aren’t held to same accountability standards as public institutions – could be receiving taxpayer dollars to fund their programs. Many of the state’s Catholics schools, therefore, are receiving a windfall of taxpayer dollars while discriminating against transgender students and others by banning them from their schools based on their sexual and gender identities.
The new policy implemented by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis explicitly uses religious beliefs to justify its discrimination. And taxpayer money is being used to prop these discriminatory policies. This is an attack on transgender students and the separation of church and state.
In light of yesterday’s ruling, we’ll see more of it – unless legislators do the right thing and stop passing voucher plans.