JULY 8, 1949
HYDE PARK, Thursday—In answer to my statement made on the general question of tax-supported schools, I received a number of letters indicating that the writers feel that if one does not approve of any schools other than public schools receiving aid from taxpayers' money, one is, without question, a biased anti-Catholic. As a matter of fact, while there probably are more Catholic parochial schools that would be benefitted if the taxpayers' money went to private schools, there are a surprising number of Protestant and Jewish schools that would be benefitted also. All of the people whose children attend these schools are taxpayers as well as the members of the Catholic Church.
I would like to make it clear once and for all that I believe in the right of any human being to worship God according to his conviction, and I would not want to see this right taken away from anyone. Sometimes, however, I think church organizations are foolish because they do things that lead people to believe they are not interested mainly in the spiritual side of the church, but that they have a decided interest also in temporal affairs. This may be harmful to the church's spiritual influence.
One of my correspondents asks me if I do not realize that government tax money is already being used by many young, returned veterans for education in Roman Catholic schools and colleges and why would I object to that? The answer is that I do not have the slightest objection to that—the taxpayers' money in this instance is given to the boy or girl because of service during the war. These youngsters forfeited certain years of education and are being given an opportunity to recoup those years. They have the right to use that money in any way that will give them the kind of education they want to obtain. That seems to me entirely different from the question of whether schools that are not public schools receive the same type of support from taxpayers' money as do public schools.
Some people take me to task because they say our public schools are non-religious. I would answer that I have no feeling against the use of a prayer which all children of all denominations could say in the public schools. In fact, I think there should be a great effort made to stress that education is not purely for material purposes, but is directed toward moral and spiritual aims and that religion plays a distinct part in achieving these ends.
But no school, private or public, can give any child a complete religious education. That must be done in the home, through the family and in the church. These, in cooperation with the schools, are the forces that must give our children the education that we want them to have. But if we want our children in school to receive some particular sectarian church education, then we should pay for that education and it should not in any way lessen our interest and support of the public schools, which are attended by the vast majority of the children of our country and can be attended by all of our children if they so desire.
I do not want the public school system to be dominated by the federal government. That is why federal aid should set only certain standards and not demand to control the schools of any state. But neither do I want church groups controlling the schools of our country. They must remain free.