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Vouchers, Freedom and Slavery

By R. J. Rushdoony
July 16, 2012

(Reprinted from Roots of Reconstruction [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991]]

In the early years of the twentieth century, the Fabian Society of England came out strongly in favor of state aid to independent Christian schools. When a board member resigned in protest, George Bernard Shaw rebuked him strongly. Nothing, Shaw held, would more quickly destroy these schools than state aid; their freedom and independence would soon be compromised, and, before long, their faith. Events soon proved Shaw to be right.

In the United States, a remarkable and vigorous Christianity developed early and has had a worldwide impact, in missions, education on every continent, and its development of many charitable and reform agencies. Since World War II, a phenomenal growth of Christian and homeschools has taken place which now commands thirty-three percent of all primary and secondary school children and is growing steadily each year. This movement is one of the most remarkable developments in American life in the twentieth century. It now faces total disaster, not from the statist's own ranks. A growing number of well-meaning leaders are seeking Federal or state aid by various means, notably the voucher plan.

The fact is that some years ago the courts established a very firm premise, namely, that, wherever state aid goes, there state controls must follow, even if Congress by law declares against such controls. No agency of state can relinquish the necessary civil control over agencies using or receiving tax funds. To receive any state funds whatsoever is to receive state controls.

Thus, to channel statist or taxed income in any way into the hands of Christian or homeschools is to surrender their freedom and to exchange it for civil controls. A variety of schemes have been proposed to circumvent such controls, but they are evasions and are not likely to be tenable in court. Many legal precedents, including the Grove City College case, make clear that a very remote "cause" is routinely used to vindicate controls. We must remember that not too many years ago federal control over a restaurant was asserted because the salt in the salt shaker was a part of interstate commerce.

On the practical side, no more inefficient use of money exists than in any statist undertaking. On the other hand, Christian and homeschools are financed usually with superior economy and very cheaply. To ask for vouchers or anything else from statist sources is to ask for higher taxes. In one country, homeschooling mothers have asked to be paid as state teachers! The whole drift into a socialist mentality is a startling one.

Today a remarkable and far-reaching Christian renewal is in evidence in the United States and elsewhere. If our humanists today were as shrewd as G. B. Shaw, they would abort the Christian renewal by giving it state funds.

The Lord's work requires the Lord's tithe, and gifts and offerings over and above the tithe. Nothing better reveals commitment than giving. No commitment means no giving, and little commitment means token giving.

There is a correlation between finances and commitment. In the 1950s, some American Christian schools began to provide free tuition to needy children, only soon to find out that all their discipline problems were within this group. When the conditions were altered, and either these needy students had to work out part of this tuition, or else their parents so worked, the discipline problems usually ended. Normally, what costs a child or a man nothing, he treats as nothing.

Christian education is an urgently necessary aspect of Christ's Kingdom and its work. Children and their schooling are the key to a people's future. To make a humanistic state the controlling force in Christian education is a tragic mistake.

But, complain many, we are over taxed by the state, have heavy family financial burdens, must support the church, and are taxed to support the state schools. It is too much of a burden then to pay for our children's Christian schooling! Precisely! It is a burden. But remember, although deer and fish are clean animals, they could not be used in the sacrifices to God. Only those domestic animals could be used which cost a man something in labor or in money. The Lord does not make things easy for us. If we are going to re-establish a Christian society, we are going to pay for it in more ways than one. A responsible people cannot be created without cost.

It is easy to understand the voucher plan by looking at existing examples of it, such as the welfare system, food stamps, and the like. All have the same premise: in the name of need, freedom and responsibility are surrendered, and dependence is called a virtue. The Israelites in the wilderness longed for the leeks and garlic, the melons and the slavery of Egypt, because slavery removes responsibility and the problems of freedom. God sentenced that generation to die in the wilderness.

If the voucher plan succeeds, all groups, of course, will be eligible: humanists, Muslims, New Agers, any and all who want their own schools. This is legally a logical consequence. But historically it has been Christians who have most thrived under freedom. It is the Christian homeschool and church school which have grown most dramatically; nothing else compares with them. Christianity has done best where most free of the state and its controls. It will be a sorry day when Christian education becomes another special interest group. There are no Biblical precedents for any such step.

The law of the tithe tells us what we must do. The Levites normally received the tithe (although the tither could administer it himself), and the Levites gave ten percent of the tithe to the priests for worship (Num. 18:25, 26). Ninety percent was for Levitical use. The Levites had broad functions, including the fact that they were the teachers (Deut. 33:10). When we restore God's laws of tithing, we can re-establish the Christian strength in worship, health, education, and welfare, and we will have done it in God's way. I fear that any other solution will bring God's judgment upon us. Remember that God told Samuel that Israel had rejected Him in seeking man's rule and man's laws. Because of this, their sons and daughters would become servants of the state power; they would be heavily taxed, and their property would be expropriated. In time they would cry out to the Lord in their distress, but, said Samuel, "the LORD will not hear you in that day"
(1 Sam. 8:18).

Are we working to place ourselves in a condition where the Lord will not hear us? Are we so covetous of the state's mess of pottage that we will sell our birthright for it? Do we have money for our pleasures but not our children's schooling? Will we in time de-Christianize our home and Christian schools in order to meet federal standards? It amazes me that men who profess to hate socialism want to espouse the voucher plan! But such blindness is common. Businessmen who hate socialism demand various subsidies, as do workers and their unions, farmers, and others. Each group wants socialism for itself only, and so too do all too many churchmen now. They want vouchers to free them from financial problems, forgetting that they thereby surrender freedom. They assume that the answer to our problems lies in the state, forgetting how bankrupt morally and financially the state is!

"Arise, O LORD, let not man prevail" (Ps. 9:19).


Topics: Education, Socialism, Statism

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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