School Choice and the Faith-Based Community

by Tiffany Crawford

Throughout Louisiana, clergy continues to play an integral role in the school choice movement. They have educated and informed families about educational options and worked with legislators to support educational opportunities for young people. Faith based leaders understand that in order to make the world a better place, they must get involved with laws that affect the community as a whole. The idea of sharing common goals for a better life has been paramount to faith based advocates.  Despite the obvious benefit of clergy involvement, there are still questions as to whether or not their involvement is necessary.

Since the early 1800’s the phrase “separation of church and state” has been misused in a number of instances to dissuade full participation in the legislative process by the faith based community. Thomas Jefferson used this phrase as he tried to explain the First Amendment religion clause. History has taught us, however, that the intent of our founding fathers was to protect religion from government and not to exclude and separate religion from government. In the 21st century, as we continue to create the best possible educational opportunities for young people, it is evident that there is a great need for religious leaders to be involved.

Legislators, executive officials, politicians and other public figures publically proclaim their desire to work with religious groups. Community leaders continue to state in meetings, forums and other public platforms that in order for young people to have a better life, everyone, including the church, must be involved.

Since the question is often asked, the question must be answered: Should our faith based community be engaged? The answer is clear.

Throughout history, churches and faith based communities have served as sources of leadership, engagement, and direction for families. Having access to, and establishing and strengthening relationships throughout, the faith-based communities will spread the truths and benefits regarding school choice. And it will help improve the lives of youth throughout Louisiana. I believe that in order to make life better for mankind, the religious community must be at the table to influence and shape public policy.

This summer, the Louisiana grassroots team had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Liberty Missionary Baptist and Educational Association. This association is a group of pastors that have broadened the life of their ministries to include mentoring of young people and ensuring that they receive the community support necessary to be successful academically.

I am often amazed at what can happen when we come together. What continues to be apparent, as I meet with religious leaders, is that the sharing of ideas and information is aligned with our quality of life. The more informed we are, the better decisions we make. Better decisions lead directly to a better quality of life. When we share, we empower. When we withhold information, we control.

I am excited to continue working with religious leaders to build an army of individuals who will fight to ensure affordable educational opportunities for all young people. This can only be done by sharing information.