Public Money for Private Worship

In A 7-2 decision this week, the Supreme Court reaffirmed a common form of constitutional discrimination. It upheld a state's ability to bar government scholarships for students studying to become religious leaders.

The decision represents another astute fine-tuning by the court of that difficult, necessary, but often porous barrier between church and state. Each nuanced judgment - and there are many such cases these days - helps the nation find the right balance between its communities of faith and a secular government.

The court's decision will be a guide as more states and local governments experiment with school vouchers. The ruling could justify the withholding of public money when a voucher is used in a parochial school that mandates religious teaching for students.

The high court was right to say that a government denial of funding for such teaching does not hurt religion. Rather, it sustains the independence of religion by preventing government from controlling the flow of money to particular faiths. And it gives individuals that necessary freedom to choose their best spiritual path.

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