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February 14, 2011

GLAA to Chairman Brown: Oppose the Reimposition of Vouchers on DC Schools

Sent by email today:

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971

P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
(202) 667-5139

February 14, 2011

The Honorable Kwame Brown
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Suite 504
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Chairman Brown:

We are distressed to learn that you have apparently abandoned your longstanding opposition to taxpayer-funded voucher programs for religious schools. In fact, we understand that you are actually planning to testify this Wednesday the 16th on behalf of a Congressional bill re-imposing such a program on the District of Columbia.

Under the on-going Congressionally-authorized school voucher program in the District, as in school voucher programs throughout the country, public funds allocated for voucher programs have mostly gone to schools controlled by religious organizations that both preach and practice homophobia. We fully appreciate that church-affiliated schools have a guaranteed, First Amendment right to discriminate as they please. They are free to, among other things:

  • Refuse to hire openly gay teachers or other staffers;

  • Refuse to admit children of same sex couples;

  • Expel openly gay students; and

  • Refuse to recognize Gay/Straight Alliances.

Religious schools are also free to indoctrinate any way they want. For example, they can teach their students that same sex marriages -- even civil, non-religious ones -- are incompatible with their religious dogmas and should be banned.

But precisely because religious schools enjoy such sweeping Constitutional rights and are virtually exempt from anti-discrimination laws such as the D.C. Human Rights Act, such institutions must not be subsidized or supported by public funds which are collected from all taxpayers--regardless of religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or any other factor.

Your previous record as a legislator indicated that you thoroughly understood these fundamental principles. For example, here is your response from the questionnaire GLAA sent to all DC Council candidates just last year:

19. Will you oppose both federal and local voucher programs that fund students in religious schools that are beyond the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act?

A. Yes, I will continue to oppose both federal and local voucher programs that fund students in religious schools that fall outside the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act; however, students who currently receive vouchers should be able to retain them so that they may complete their education.

You voiced similar sentiments when you ran for the Council in 2004 and 2008. In fact, in 2004 you unequivocally told us: "Opposition to school vouchers is a core value that I fully believe in." We are frankly astonished that you are now prepared to toss aside one of your "core values" so casually.

We very much appreciate your strong record of support for same sex marriage and for full civil rights and civil liberties for all residents of the District of Columbia. Accordingly, we urge you to reaffirm your commitment against vouchers for schools that seek to turn impressionable young people against so many of the very "core values" that we all stand for.


Mitch Wood
President, GLAA


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