At a time when the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen completely under the control of religious fundamentalists who seek to use government to promote their own ideological views, it might be hard to remember the long tradition of Baptist support for separation of church and state. Many Baptists still support it. Take, for example, the Rev. Charles Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth. On Tuesday he spoke before the Texas Senate Education Committee against Senate Bill 23, a measure that would provide state tax credits to businesses that fund voucher scholarships for students at private and religious schools. He was testifying on behalf of the Christian Life Commission and the Coalition for Public Schools. TFN is a member of that coalition, which opposes private school voucher schemes.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the author of SB 23 and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has argued repeatedly that his bill doesn’t create a government-funded voucher program that subsidizes tuition at nonpublic schools. But Rev. Johnson clearly and correctly explained that the bill’s tax breaks for businesses would take money that would otherwise go to public schools and send it to private and religious schools instead. And he spoke eloquently and firmly about the importance of separation of church and state and the threat vouchers pose to that key constitutional principle.
To that we say: “Amen.”