An interesting problem arose recently in the small town I live in. It's one with a number of issues bundled together, yet most of the players can only seem to see one aspect of it.
The Town Of Orange Transit (TOOT) is a subsidized shuttle bus service. For twenty-five cents, residents in the town can catch a ride around town and to certain locations outside of town.
At the most recent town council meeting, it was revealed that the former town manager had made arrangements with the Cornerstone Christian School, located seven miles away in the next county to provide transportation to and from the school. Since there were a significant number of students who came from Orange, it seemed like a good idea to those involved in that decision.
The majority of the council knew nothing of the arrangement until it was called to their attention -- primarily due to a complaint by a regular rider that the bus wasn't on its regular route at its scheduled time because it was transporting these students.
A heated discussion followed. Parents of the children involved didn't see what the problem was, and wanted the service to continue. A few of the council members (including the cousin of the headmaster) thought everything was fine. But most of the council was very uncomfortable with the decision, although in the end they agreed to let it stand -- at least temporarily.
Personally, I wouldn't have had a problem with the school renting the bus and paying the driver's salary to make the run. Then school funds would be used to transport their students -- not public money.
It would also be different if the bus stop in Madison County was, say, in the center of town of Madison and other people in addition to the students were using the bus to travel to Madison. With other riders using the service to do their shopping or go to work in Madison, TOOT would be serving the general public. But this bus is going out to the school for the sole purpose of transporting these students and only these students -- there's nothing else around it. So the town of Orange is in a real sense underwriting the transportation costs for a private Christian school.
But for me as a Christian (worse yet -- Presbyterian) the issue of the separation of church and state was trumped by a comment made in the meeting. The grandmother of one of the students -- and part of the county's more prominent families -- said:
"The parents of these students are more important to the tax base of the town than the elderly and underprivileged people of this community."
Wow. I am hard-pressed to find any Christian thought in that statement.
After all, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)
So however the elderly and underprivileged are treated in Orange by professed Christians, so (by proxy) do they treat Christ. A disturbing point to miss in any discussion involving Christian education...