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Empower Parents to Choose Public, Private or Religious Education, Robert Jeffress, Ed Young, Other Pastors Tell Texas Supreme Court

Pastor Robert Jeffress
Pastor Robert Jeffress behind the pulpit at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. |

A coalition of conservative pastors including Robert Jeffress and Ed Young have sent an amicus brief to the Texas Supreme Court stating that it is "unconstitutionally inefficient" for the state to prohibit taxpayer dollars from going to religious-based private schools when there are students who want to attend such institutions instead of public schools.

As the Texas Supreme Court is weighing whether or not to uphold a 2014 judgement that struck down the state's public school finance system, the U.S. Pastor Council, with the help of the of lawyer Briscoe Cain, filed a brief arguing that the court should uphold the state judge's ruling because the current school finance system has failed its students.

The council, which includes a number of prominent Texas pastors like Jeffress, Young, Robert Morris and Steve Riggle, stated that 50 percent of state's public schools are not meeting student advancement goals established by the No Child Left Behind Act. The council contends that religious schools should be eligible to receive public funding through the charter school system in order to give Texas students who wish to go to religious schools the ability to do so. Additionally, such a rule would fulfill the Texas constitution's requirement of an "efficient" school system.

"We believe that parents have the God-given fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their own children," the brief states. "Consumer choice and free markets, rather than government coercion and compulsion produce far better and the only truly 'efficient' results on both the individual and societal level as demonstrated by economics and history."

The brief advises that excluding religious schools from receiving such funding would violate the religious freedom of students.

"The total and complete exclusion of religious providers from the public education system severely implicates religious liberty, whereas their inclusion clearly does not violate religious liberty or the Establishment Clause," the brief states.

"In order to establish justice, in order for the Supreme Court to perform its constitutional duty to enforce the express written terms of the Constitution such as 'efficient,' the current public school system should be declared constitutionally inefficient and the legislature should be directed to create an efficient system," the brief continues.

The pastors add that the current public school system would only benefit, not suffer, from the inclusion of religious schools.

"From a pure economics standpoint, an efficient system would have the greatest number of suppliers possible. This is what produces efficiency in free markets. The exclusion of suppliers from the market produces inefficiency and serves merely to protect the inefficient suppliers," the brief asserts. "Judicial notice can be taken of the widely known fact that there are many excellent private religious schools in Texas which do an excellent job of educating and produce many alumni of great benefit and prominence in society."

The brief cites a study conducted by William Jeynes, professor of education at California State University at Long Beach, which found that students who attend religious private schools, especially Christian schools, were a full year ahead of their peers who attend public and secular independent schools.

"No one can argue that public education — characterized by bloated budgets and deteriorating standards — is a dismal failure in many parts of the country," Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, told The Christian Post on Wednesday. "A reasonable solution to the public education crisis is to redirect some of those billions of tax dollars that are propping up a failed system toward private religious schools that are succeeding in teaching basic academic skills."

"It only seems fair that religious schools that are relieving some of the burden from the public school system should receive a proportionate share of tax dollars earmarked for public education," Jeffress continued.

An organization called Pastors for Texas Children, which is run by longtime Texas Baptist pastor Charles Foster Johnson, responded to the council's brief in a statement arguing that reconstructing the school finance system to permit taxpayer dollars to go to religious-based schools would only take more money away from public schools, which educate 92 percent of Texas school children.

The statement further argues that giving public funds to religious schools would also hurt the religious schools' freedom of instruction.

"The last thing our fine public schools need is more dollars drained away from them," the brief states. "And the last thing our fine private schools need is the government intervention and oversight that will inevitably and necessarily follow the public money they receive."

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