The governor of Guam is receiving plaudits for vetoing a bill to fund religious charter schools from FFRF Action Fund, which is designating her its “Secularist of the Week.” Meanwhile, for announcing plans to insert religion into public schools by introducing a federal school prayer bill, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is being named “Theocrat of the Week.”
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero recently vetoed Bill 62-37, a measure to allow private schools, mostly religious, to convert to public-supported charter schools. The bill would “remove any discrimination or distinction between private sectarian or nonsectarian applicants for converting existing schools or for new charter schools.” The measure Leon Guerrero firmly vetoed was similar to the proposal approved by a virtual charter school board in Oklahoma to allow for the first time in our nation the creation of a religious (Catholic) charter school entirely financed by tax dollars.
The Guam sponsors insist that recent Supreme Court rulings, such as Carson v. Makin, Espinoza v. Montana and Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, would permit such sponsorship. Demurred Leon Guerrero: “The referenced cases … do not in fact support the creation of state-sponsored religious schools. Rather, these cases authorized government assistance to individuals, families or nonprofit organizations in the form of tuition assistance, scholarships or grants.” She explained that the major distinction between Bill 62 and the cited cases is that “the government did not exercise regulatory authority over the school receiving the government money.”
Leon Guerrero added in her veto message, “I cannot sign a law that authorizes the use of taxpayer dollars to sponsor the establishment of religious schools, even if the school teaches my religion. As state actors or governmental entities, Guam’s charter schools must respect the Constitution and the Organic Act of Guam, which clearly prohibit public schools from discriminating based on religion, or promoting or coercing students to engage in religious activities.”
Gaetz, on the other hand, was happy to pander to a crowd at a conference by Turning Point Action, saying to wild applause: “God’s reach does not stop at the schoolhouse gates. In the coming days I will introduce a national prayer in school law so that in every classroom in America there will be time for students to pray if they choose.” For good measure, he added: “This beautiful new Supreme Court that Pres. Trump gave us just might uphold a constitutional law like that based on values this country was built on.”
Gaetz, although the pious Baptist son of a multimillionaire, has been the subject of various morality accusations. His close associate Joel Greenberg was indicted, then found guilty and sent to prison in 2021 for crimes including sex trafficking of a girl, 17. Gaetz shrugged off the concerns by saying he is “not a monk” and has “paid for flights, for hotel rooms” for women he’s “dated,” because he is “generous as a partner,” according to Vox. The Justice Department in early 2023 ended its sex trafficking investigation into Gaetz without charging him with any crimes, according to his attorneys and congressional office.
“Our precious secular public schools are under unrelenting assault,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF Action Fund president. “We truly commend Gov. Leon Guerrera for safeguarding the right of Americans to be free from being taxed to support other peoples’ religions. We’re sorry we cannot say the same for Rep. Gaetz.”
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. FFRF Action Fund serves as the advocacy arm of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has more than 40,000 members and works to keep religion out of government and educate the public about nontheism.