After the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling: Is education next?

Steven Mosher
written by Chris Manion
July 18, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Population Research Institute

"Now that Roe is Dead, Where Do We Go From Here?"

That's the go-to question PRI President Steven Mosher asked in this space three weeks ago.

The impact of the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling is clearly profound. It presents a host of challenges and opportunities for the pro-life movement. But now is the time to act, Mosher says. Pro-lifers have to hit the ground running - immediately.

November's elections are only four months away, and pro-abortion advocates, alongside their usual threats, violence, hysteria, and outright hatred, are spending millions in every state to stop us.

But we're in this for the long haul, so let's look beyond November as well. And in looking ahead, we must begin by looking back.

In the fifty years since Roe v. Wade, discussion of advances in the understanding of the early stages of unborn life has been forbidden in America's public square. "No Trespassing! Court Order!"

This secular narrative bombarded the daily lives of ordinary Americans since 1973. The crescendo intensified with each passing year.

The proclamation of Roe as the new reality gave the abortion lobby free rein not only in the law, but in every aspect of the public conversation. In classic Orwellian fashion, "a woman's right to choose" became their battle cry.

That mandatory narrative served as the tip of the spear in the "culture wars" - launched by the secular Left to destroy the culture of life itself.

The Court's decision in Dobbs, historic in itself, will also prove to be vital for champions of life, liberty, and the family in their broader efforts to restore the culture of life in areas far beyond the issue of abortion.

Justice Alito's key finding in Dobbs provides solid ground for that restoration:

"The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision," he writes."....Wielding nothing but 'raw judicial power,' the Court usurped the power to address a question of profound moral and social importance that the Constitution unequivocally leaves for the people."

So "abortion" does not appear in the Constitution?


Well, neither does "education."

Recovering Religious Freedom

In the past year, education has dominated the public conversation, and for good reason.

Like unborn life, public education has been the victim of the same "raw judicial power" of the Federal Courts in recent years. In one case after another, the Supreme Court has gradually removed any hint of religious faith from every classroom even remotely connected to government funding.

Almost by default - if not design - secularism has been consecrated as the sole religion permitted to survive in public schools.

"Separation of Church and State!" has been declared a mantra as absolute as "a woman's right to choose!"

But now the battle is joined. And with Roe sent to the dustbin of history, returning the control of education to the states and to the people should be the next constitutional goal of the pro-family movement.

Several states have already passed landmark legislation providing unprecedented freedom, along with public funding, for schools outside the public school system.

Predictably, the powerful government school unions and their allies have routinely and stridently opposed such measures.

Their challenges will undoubtedly reach the Supreme Court - and, given the findings in Dobbs and Carson v. Makin (see below), many precedents - some of them predating Roe v. Wade by several years - may well come under the Court's scrutiny.

Do Children Belong To The State?

In the mid-19th century, a generation of educators from Horace Mann in Massachusetts to John Swett in California led the development of public education in the United States. And from its inception, the tension between the government-funded public school system and religious schools developed right alongside.

Swett, California's Superintendent of Education in the 1860s, was blunt. "Children belong to the state, not to the parents," he insisted.

"The vulgar impression that parents have a legal right to dictate to teachers is entirely erroneous," Swett complained. So, logically, he opposed the rights of parents to review the performance of teachers in their community. Indeed, parents were not to intrude in the education of their children at all. "[T]he child should be taught to consider his instructor, in many respects, superior to the parents in point of authority," he insisted.

And who's going to teach the child that? Certainly not his parents.

John Swett took his secular contempt for the family seriously. He founded the California Teachers Association (CTA), which is today one of the nation's most powerful, and politically radical, school unions.

To this day, the CTA's highest annual award bears Swett's revered name.

Given his principles, it is no surprise that the union's educational track record is one of the worst in the United States.

Swett was profoundly anti-Catholic, but that wasn't so unusual in his time. In the 19th century, anti-Catholicism thrived, and it grew more fervent with the wave of millions of European Catholic emigres and the schools that went up alongside their neighborhood churches.

Many prominent civic leaders, educators, and politicians opposed the very existence of Catholic "parochial" schools, and wrote that opposition into state law. In fact, it wasn't until the Supreme Court decided Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1925 that the right of parents to send their children to schools outside the country's public school systems was finally acknowledged at all.

A generation later, with McCollum v. Board of Education , the battle intensified. McCollum nullified the policy of an Illinois school district, which allowed religious instruction to be provided in the state's public schools, since attendance at those schools was compulsory.

As one legal observer noted at the time, the decision "outlawed the approval by a state's local school board of any activity during school hours which is calculated to promote the interest of public school children in the existence and power of God."

Since McCollum, a steady stream of Court decisions regarding public schools has emerged, examining every aspect not only of religious instruction, but such issues as Bible reading and school prayer .

In most of these decisions, religion lost.

But none of them was delivered by a unanimous Court.

Neither were the decisions banning the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls, forbidding a moment of silence "for meditation or voluntary prayer" in classrooms, and prohibiting a clergyman from offering an opening invocation and a closing benediction at a graduation ceremony.

Those cases and many others drove a sharp and increasingly hostile wedge between not only religion and public schools, but between religion and all of public life. As public education has become more secular, so has the culture.

Moreover, public education has also become more federalized. And with that federalization, public education has become increasingly radicalized.

One need not judge the quality of teachers in today's public school classrooms (although that issue is hotly debated, pro and con ) to recognize that in the case of education, that radicalization has been inextricably intertwined with secularization.

So the facts, the science, and the Supreme Court don't matter: "A Woman's Right To Choose" and "Separation Of Church And State!" have replaced God Bless America and the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms and they're going to stay there.


Lyman Stone has documented the reasons in detail. "[E]xpansions in government service provision and especially increasingly secularized government control of education significantly drive secularization and can account for virtually the entire increase in secularization around the developed world. The decline in religiosity in America is not the product of a natural change in preferences, but an engineered outcome of clearly identifiable policy choices in the past.]

Oh, really? Prove it.

OK. A recent example will suffice.

In May, the Biden Administration's Department of Agriculture (DoA) issued an edict announcing that it will change how it interprets Title IX prohibitions on discrimination based on sex "to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Orwell lives. The same Administration that can't tell a "man" from a "woman" now insists that "sex" will henceforth be translated as "gender."

The DoA directive continues: "That change means that schools that accept any kind of funding, including students receiving FAFSA or Pell grants or students who receive federally subsidized school lunch funding, will be subject to the new Title IX LGBT interpretation.

That's right. The "raw judicial power" identified by Justice Alito has been expanded to include raw executive power. The mere edict of an unelected federal bureaucrat can overturn laws passed by Congress, defy federal court decisions, and magically transform the meaning of words, even as it avoids accountability to the public.

Lyman Stone calls America's decline in religiosity an "engineered outcome" of policy choice.

Maybe it's time for some "reverse engineering."

Is Education A Pro-Life Issue?

We repeat: the word "abortion" doesn't appear in the Constitution - but neither does "education."

And that principle so elegantly articulated in Dobbs has now been joined by an equally important finding in the Maine case of Carson v. Makin. In this case, the Court had no need to "overturn precedents" - in fact, Chief Justice Roberts cited several of them including two that had a direct impact on the case. "A State need not subsidize private education, [b]ut once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious," he wrote.

The Dobbs decision has liberated states from the murderous chains of Roe v. Wade. The time has come to free parents from the destructive chains of "engineered secularism" that teaches children to hate their parents, love sexual pleasure, mutilate their bodies, corrupt their imaginations, befoul their innocent minds, defile their rational intellects, kill their unwanted babies at will...

The list is endless. And until Dobbs v. Jackson and Carson v. Makin, that list has been the mandatory curriculum's "table of contents" for public schools throughout the country.

But now, state legislators can pass laws that give parents a choice on where to send their children to school - using public funds for educating their children in schools public or private, religious or secular.

Imagine a classroom where it's safe to teach "Thou Shalt Not Kill!" Where the pupil can revere the Declaration of Independence without being canceled because it mentions God five times. Where we're taught to stand on the shoulders of past generations instead of spitting on their heads.

Thanks to Dobbs, the battle for life will now be joined in every state legislature in the country.

And thanks to Carson v. Makin, the battle for choice in education will.

Let's call it "A family's right to choose."

And fight for it.