Written by Don Byrd

Why do religious liberty and church-state separation advocates fight so hard in opposition to government funding of religion? Because receiving tax dollars does religion no favors. In fact, it undermines the freedom of conscience at the heart of our first freedom. And it certainly seems contrary to the views of the Founders.

Writing for Above the Law, Tyler Broker makes this case well. Here is an excerpt, in which he explains how James Madison viewed government support for religion.

According to Madison, using civil support mechanisms to support religion always violated the free conscience of citizens, even if no taxpayer objected. To allow civil support was for Madison a contradiction to religion itself “for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world.” Civil support for religion also presented “a contradiction in terms” to Madison because it weakened “those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author.”  In other words, Madison felt religion stood in no need of civil assistance, and to provide aid, even neutrally applied as it was in the assessment bill he was opposing (and how funding is justified today), ultimately undermines religion’s authority.

Supreme Court decisions like Trinity Lutheran Church, which required Missouri to make state grants available to churches, open a dangerous door onto more robust funding of religion. That should be concerning to everyone who values religious liberty and soul freedom. We must remain vigilant in opposing further expansion of this misstep.