Jenny’s Mixtape: Losing My Religion

A song I loved in the early 90’s was R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion”. I never understood the song at the time (hey, I was like 10) but I learned later that losing one’s religion was actually an old southern expression for being at the end of one’s rope – kinda like when you’ve had enough and are about to get angry.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and with some of the rhetoric we’re hearing from anti-ESA folks, it seems like they’re losing their religion with their anger and outrage… at religious schools.

ESA Programs and Parental Rights

ESA programs are rooted in the belief– recognized by Arizona law A.R.S. 1-601– that parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. That’s why ESA scholarship funds are managed by parents; they get to decide what education environment is best for their child.

And because we live in a pluralistic society, with people of diverse worldviews and belief systems, parents will inevitably have different perspectives on what environment is best for their own child. Arizona legislators understood this; that is why in creating the ESA program they established that a school with ESA students “shall not be required to alter its creed, practices, admission policy or curriculum” (A.R.S. 15-2404(C)). Each parent or family with a child on the ESA program can decide whether they want to home educate or have their child attend a private school. If they decide attending a private school is best for their child, they will probably choose one that aligns or at least doesn’t significantly conflict with the beliefs that they want to instill in their children.

Bigotry Against People of Faith

Some critics of the ESA program in Arizona, and elsewhere, have tried to win people over to their side with fake outrage, which amounts to nothing more than bigotry against people of faith.

For example, they may say: “Can you believe private school XYZ believes THIS?!? I’m horrified that taxpayer dollars are going to that school.” What they are actually saying is “I disagree with what that school teaches; therefore, students receiving ESAs should not be allowed to attend that school!”

Critics are using the fact that we live in a pluralistic society to pit people against each other. In the ESA program, the funds go to the parent and therefore, they can send their children to a catholic school, a secular school, a Muslim school, a Jewish school and so on.

Just because you don’t personally agree with what a school may teach doesn’t mean that other families shouldn’t be allowed to send their children to those schools. That’s why these ESA opponents using fake outrage are actually espousing bigotry against people of faith. We need to call it what it is!

The Supreme Court and Faith-Based Schools

In the last few years, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken a strong position protecting faith-based schools against government discrimination, even when public funds are involved. In Trinity Lutheran in 2017, the Court established that a state cannot deny a religious school an otherwise public benefit (like a playground resurfacing grant) just because of its religious status.

In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue in 2020, the Court held that a state-based tax credit scholarship program for private school tuition violated the Free Exercise Clause when it excluded religious schools, thereby discriminating against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them.

Finally, in Carson v. Makin in 2022, the Court held that a generally available tuition assistance program could not exclude religious schools, even though school districts were required to transmit tuition payments directly to the private schools.

With these three cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has firmly established when it comes to a generally available grant or scholarship, a state cannot discriminate against a religious school and its students (or students hoping to attend), especially when the public funds flow to the schools through the independent choices of the student’s family.


  1. Because parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, and because we live in a pluralistic society, ESA opponents should be called out for their bigotry against people of faith.
  2. Parents, policy makers, and state leaders should welcome a plurality of school options and be bold when opponents attack faith-based schooling.
  3. Faith-based schools should be confident in accepting ESA funds since the United States Supreme Court has held that schools cannot be excluded from state based scholarships because of their religious beliefs.



Listen to R.E.M. and Losing My Religion

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- Jenny Clark

Founder & Executive Director

Arizona native and mother of five, Love Your School Founder Jenny Clark knows full well the unique variations in how children learn. Jenny grew up in Arizona, attended her local district school from K-12, and then continued on to the University of Arizona and received a BSBA in Business Economics.

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