Oppose: LB14 – Adopt the Elementary and Secondary Educational Opportunity Act and provide for income tax credits

Oppose: LB14 – Adopt the Elementary and Secondary Educational Opportunity Act and provide for income tax credits

The following is tesitmony that was given by the Nebraska Secular Associates prior to the formation of the Secular Coalition for Nebraska.

March 5, 2013

Testimony on LB14 by Mike Lewis, Chair, Nebraska Secular Advocates

Good morning, senators. My name is Mike Lewis, I live in Lincoln, and I’m here today as the chairman of a new statewide grassroots group called the Nebraska Secular Advocates. We represent atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious Nebraskans, and we also welcome the participation of religious Nebraskans who share our commitment to the separation of church and state.

We are opposed to LB14. The vast majority of private schools in Nebraska have, as a primary mission, the religious indoctrination of children. As taxpayers, we do not want to be forced to support these religious institutions, either directly or indirectly. These schools are not publicly accountable. For example, in science courses, they are free to replace accepted scientific facts with pseudoscientific religious ideas. When they admit students or hire teachers, they can discriminate on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, academic ability, or other factors.

Tuition tax credits violate the spirit of the First Amendment, as well as comparable provisions in most state constitutions, including Article VII, Section 11 of the Nebraska Constitution, which begins: “Notwithstanding any other provision in the Constitution, appropriation of public funds shall not be made to any school or institution of learning not owned or exclusively controlled by the state or a political subdivision thereof.”

When citizens decide to privately buy other services or commodities, such as security protection or country club memberships, they do not get a tax credit against the public budget for police protection or public golf courses. The private purchase of those items hardly amounts to double taxation. Similarly, parents who enroll their children in private schools are not “paying twice” for education. Rather, they are making a free choice to purchase a private service that is separate from the societal obligation they share to provide a mechanism to educate the public as a whole. This obligation is shared with all their neighbors, many of whom don’t even have children.

We ask the committee to indefinitely postpone this bill. Thank you.