Doesn’t “Religion” Mean “Conservative Christian?”

So the ongoing fiasco of Bobby Jindal’s “let the parents decide” voucher program in Louisiana is finally beginning to get some national media attention, for the simple reason that its logic is carrying it in directions that horrify its strongest proponents and intended beneficiaries. Via Amy Sullivan at TNR, we read this amusing story from the Livingston Parish News:

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools. “I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.

“I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges said.

Hodges mistakenly assumed that “religious” meant “Christian.”

Seems a Muslim school applied to receive voucher-backed students. It hasn’t been approved so far–guess that rigorous “vetting” process utilized by the Louisiana Department of Education finally kicked in–but the awful specter has been raised, and will be difficult to banish, at least in the imagination of lawmakers like Valerie Hodges:

We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.

So down plunges the Pelican State into the political and constitutional thicket of how to shovel money to conservative evangelical schools without looking too closely at what they are teaching, while at the same time keeping away schools that conservative evangelicals hate and fear. Having implicitly embraced the idea that not only Muslims, but liberal Protestant Christians like Barack Obama, aren’t actually religious, Republicans can’t complain too much when “the base” can’t understand why such distinctions can’t be written into the law.

Good luck with that, Governor Jindal–and you, too, Mitt Romney, with your own no-strings voucher proposal.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.