DeVos opens door to taxpayers funding religious orgs by stopping enforcement of church-state separation rule
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has announced she will no longer enforce the provision of federal law that bans religious organizations from being funded with taxpayer dollars for secular projects.


DeVos is citing a 2017 Supreme Court decision that ruled a Missouri Lutheran church-run school could not be barred from having taxpayers pay for repaving its playground under a local ordinance that made it ineligible solely due to separation of church and state policies.

The Education Secretary, in an official notice to Congress, now appears to be turning that ruling on its head.

"The law calls for students in public and private schools to receive 'equitable services,' such as special education, tutoring or mentoring, and allows districts to hire contractors to deliver those services," The New York Times explains.

The Washington Post adds, "school districts are now open to contract with religious organizations," although "the services they provide must be 'secular, neutral and non-ideological.'"

The education reporter for US News, a right-leaning news site, says, "DeVos blurs church-state boundaries" with her new rule.

Indeed, DeVos is claiming that the provisions of the federal laws she is now refusing to enforce are "discrimination against religious organizations."

“The Trinity Lutheran decision reaffirmed the long-understood intent of the First Amendment to not restrict the free exercise of religion,” DeVos said. “Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization.”

On Twitter DeVos says her decision to not enforce federal law shows "this Admin’s commitment to protecting the #FirstAmendment."

Some are sounding the alarm.

"Just look at what happens when Christian ministries are brought in to teach public school sex education classes or host assemblies encouraging kids not to do drugs," Friendly Atheist warns. "On paper, there’s nothing inappropriate happening, but there are countless stories about how misinformation is spread by Christian abstinence-only advocates and how secular daytime assemblies are used to advertise very religious nighttime assemblies."