Here’s a comment in the papers today from a long-time observer:
The new school voucher law allows the use of public tax funds to support the education of private-school students, including those attending religious schools. The New Hampshire Constitution forbids the use of public funds to support religion. For that reason, the school voucher law is under court challenge by both the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Separation of Church and State.
Last year, the school voucher bill passed the Senate despite state Sen. Nancy Stiles voting against it. In the Feb. 6 edition of the Portsmouth Herald, Stiles indicated that she had changed her position, and now intends to vote against attempts (HB370) to repeal the school voucher law. She justified the switch by saying that any new piece of legislation deserved a chance to see whether or not it would succeed.
Hmmm. Someone with a more skeptical turn of mind might see other motives at play here. During the 2005-2006 legislative session, when Stiles was a state representative, she twice voted (HB1707 and SB131) in favor of school vouchers, the same position she has now once again adopted. She has returned to her roots — support for vouchers.
What might have caused her temporary shift to oppose vouchers in 2012? In that year, Stiles first ran for the state Senate in a newly redistricted area. She ran against a formidable opponent who had previously represented much the same area both as a state representative and a state senator. Moreover, according to her own words, Stiles noted that the great majority of constituent input she had received opposed school vouchers, making support for them politically risky. In other words, political survival in a tough race may have motivated Stiles’ temporary shift, not the noblest of reasons.
Stiles’ argument that any new piece of legislation deserves a chance to succeed is not persuasive. Suppose a bill was passed and made into a law that suspended freedom of speech. Should we have to wait to see whether or not we liked censorship of speech and writing before we could repeal this law? The idea of censorship is so alien to American democracy that it falls of its own weight.
Similarly, the separation of church and state is fundamental to this nation, being the reason many of our ancestors came to these shores was to escape religious persecution in other countries. The school voucher bill clearly violates this principle and should be repealed without delay by the Legislature.