Acton Institute Powerblog

Put Not Thy Trust In Politics

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ap061011036516The “Christendom Show” really is over in America my friends. It’s a wrap. The culture of American politics is not simply made of up deists, agnostics, and atheists but men and women who are decidedly anti-Christian. To be anti-Christian is not to be merely apathetic or ambivalent toward Christian participation in societal life. Being anti-Christian is to pursue whatever arbitrary measures necessary to ensure that Christians are purged from receiving the same political liberties as other groups. For example, New York State forecasts, yet again, what will likely happen in more and more states in the coming years as state legislators rejected a measure that would allow tax payers to receive tax credits for financially supporting parochial education.

New York’s Education Investment Tax Credit would have provided a state tax credit for:

1. Classroom Supplies–Reimburse teachers up to $100 for their out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies.

2. Classroom Projects–Increase donations for teacher-selected classroom projects through DonorsChoose and similar nonprofit organizations.

3. Arts, Music, and Sports–Increase donations to nonprofits to provide arts, music, history, athletics, and other instruction in classrooms.

4. Scholarships–Increase donations for nonprofit scholarship organizations to provide scholarships to students attending pre-K through 12th grade, including public and private schools.

According to the bill’s supporters, “the proposed $300 million in tax credits, at least half would be set aside to increase donations to public schools and their teachers.”

Religious leaders, including Timothy Cardinal Dolan Archbishop of New York, met with officials in New York’s State Assembly to garner support. Republican leaders pledged their support with the expectation that the measure would pass. It didn’t. The measure failed because opponents alleged that the bill was a de facto voucher system that would pull money away from public education. The teacher’s union of the state of New York lobbied against it and, according to the New York Daily News, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos Scott Reif, the spokesman for GOP state senator Dean Skelos said, “No one worked harder than Senator Skelos to make the Education Investment Tax Credit part of the budget, but we couldn’t get all of the parties to agree.”

With one of the most powerful labor unions in the state lobbying against such a measure there should have been no expectation that the bill would pass since most politicians care about one thing: staying in office. Public schools do not want the competition and they will use politics to protect their interests at all costs. I’m certain that the education lobby will generously reward those who voted against the bill.

While there is a need to pay attention to events at the national level this story reminds us that state and local politics are where the some of the most insidious threats to religious liberty will emerge in the coming years. This story also reminds us that if Christians put their faith and trust in politicians they will be let down time and time again. Politics regularly does not deliver on what it promises.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.

Comments

  • austinrick

    Start by taxing the churches at corporate rates (which is like no tax at all). IOW, keep it real – literally.

    • “Combining earnings and taxes for all S.&P. 500 companies gives an
      effective tax rate of 29.1 percent. But rates vary widely by industry.” Source: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/05/25/sunday-review/corporate-taxes.html?_r=0

    • HowardRichards

      At least that would get rid of the nonsense clerics go through in order to retain the all-holy tax-exempt status. Unfortunately, pressure from the state will not end when tax-exempt status is revoked — on the contrary, various pretexts will be used to regulate what churches may say and do, whom they may hire, where they may and may not be located, etc. Like they said in Battlestar Galactica, all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

  • JohnE

    “the proposed $300 million in tax credits, at least half would be set
    aside to increase donations to public schools and their teachers.”

    So they’re willing to pass up additional funding, just as long as there’s no benefit to religiously-affiliated education institutions. Sounds like a good lose-lose situation. Thanks for watching out for the common good, teachers’ union!