Stephen Macedo


The renewed interest in civil society has given rise to a number of constitutional, political, and moral concerns. Critics of "civil society revivalism" worry that relying on local communities and institutions could come at the expense of overarching constitutional ideals of liberal justice. While some argue, for example, that channeling public monies to religious and other private schools would help invigorate the educational influence of families, churches and other communities in civil society, others argue that the flow of public funds to sectarian schools will undermine the public institutions that support citizenship and children's freedom. While acknowledging that there are reasonable concerns associated with school vouchers, this Article argues that there is much that public policy and institutional design can and should do to insure that liberal democratic values are promoted within the sphere of civil society. The polity should take full advantage of the educative and character-forming resources furnished by civil society institutions. However, the flow of tax dollars to private institutions should be accompanied by conditions and restrictions that help insure that public values are being served. Indeed, some constitutional concerns about vouchers are eased when the programs are designed so that schools cannot exclude children with vouchers on religious grounds. One predictable result will be that some religious institutions will have to compromise their spiritual mission in order to enjoy access to public funds, but that is often appropriate and acceptable. The Article also argues against the principle that public policies must be designed to have neutral impacts on religious communities.

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