I read Thomas S. Kidd's "Time for government to butt out piece" in the October 3, 20011 edition of the USA Today and I have to say he is both right and wrong. I should preface this with I am probably as close to agnostic as I have ever been and that I left the governing body of my former church very angry and very disillusioned. I also am not a tax accountant nor a lawyer. What I am is a tax payer who is tied of subsidizing companies - like BIG BANKS and Religious Organizations who want to cry separate when they break laws - like say equal opportunity clauses. (Beyond the fact that I find it - as a non practicing former/reformed/confused/angry Christian MORALLY REPUGNANT - that a religious organization would summarily dismiss, likely without an offer of disability, a teacher who developed a medical disability. This, this is their idea of walking as Christ walks and offering charity.)
Here's my take on the situation - if religious groups take any sort of governmental funding up to and including the 503c tax exemptions, then they are SUBJECT to limited governmental oversight. In my mind it really is that simple. If you accept grants from the federal or state government, you are subject to said oversight. If you don't pay taxes, because you seek a "special" exemption - thereby availing yourselves of all sorts of perks - like clean roads, bridges which carry your folk to and from the church, prime real estate at little or no property taxes, emergency services, police, fire, EMS, all without paying your fair share - then YES, you are subject to some federal, state and local oversight. While we are on it - religious institutions pay no sales tax. They take from the local economy every single day.
If this school avails itself of busing provided by the home school distract, it is subject to oversight.
If religious groups want to be SEPARATE, then no feeding off the federal, state and local trough. Hospitals, which take medicare funds, are subject to oversight. Many hospitals are 503c entities, too.
I agree government should have no say in the ministry of particular religious groups. We do not have a state religion - that said - if these groups want to be 100% government free - pay up. Pay your taxes, don't look for hand outs, don't ask for government funds to shore up your programing. Don't look for busing to your schools and don't avail yourself of services you aren't paying for. When your church is on fire or under attack - deal with it... otherwise, be like every other business and make no mistake there isn't a religious group out there that isn't a business, and pay your fair share.
And to Kidd's point -
One cannot imagine a more obvious feature of an establishment of religion, or a clearer violation of free exercise, than the government dictating to a church that it must rehire a religious teacher, especially a person who has violated church teachings or behavioral codes. The Justice Department's position, if vindicated, raises the possibility that courts and bureaucrats may, in the name of contemporary norms of fairness, begin requiring religious organizations to hire any number of candidates who do not accept that faith's tenets. One could easily imagine future decisions forcing churches, synagogues, or mosques to hire employees who do not adhere to the tradition's norms of sexual behavior, for example.Religious liberty will be severely damaged if faith groups cannot hire and fire according to their beliefs. That's why leaders from such an impressive range of religions are united by the threat of a government clearly overstepping its well-defined boundaries.
I think there is a huge difference between firing someone who becomes disabled and hiring someone who's lifestyle choices are incompatible with a given religious groups viewpoint. Either way - if you take government funds -- you march to Yankee Doodle's tune. If you want to be separate, pay up and Uncle Sam will shut up.