Bender: HB 1532 demands mandatory tithing in North Dakota

The bill "is a scheme to take public taxes to fund private education, primarily faith-based schools that deny admittance to all but those who love Jesus and can dunk a basketball," Tony Bender writes.

Tony Bender

Perhaps you live near a municipal golf course. A quality of life enhancement. Anyone can golf there. So, we don't mind paying to fix broken sprinklers. Or to maintain swimming pools, roads, libraries and other dens of iniquity, and even public education, the great societal equalizer.

Education and effort kickstart Horatio Alger's America.

You provide effort. We'll provide education.

Everyone gets a shot at prosperity. If your child's disabled or has learning challenges, welcome. No discrimination. Public schools accommodate and nurture them. If money's short at home, if there's anything left after Big Oil giveaways, your kid might even get a subsidized breakfast.

We're in this together, right?


Used to be, anyway.

Maybe there's a private country club nearby, too. If folks are prosperous enough to pay nosebleed dues, bravo. Imagine though, if that country club demanded tax dollars for their new champagne cooler. Or that you pave their gated private road.

How would you like them rotten apples?

Something similar's brewing in Bismarck. HB 1532 is a scheme to take public taxes to fund private education, primarily faith-based schools that deny admittance to all but those who love Jesus and can dunk a basketball.

They demand public funds to pay for private, exclusionary, faith-based indoctrination. That's $24 million denied rural students lacking similar options. You pay, but nonsecular schools don't have to follow state guidelines. They can reject children with learning disabilities. And do. A gay teen? Fahgettaboudit! But, bless you, anyway.

No audits. No transparency.

But stadium upkeep at Our Sacred Academy of the Holy Entitlement is brutal. Question: If our cornerback intercepts a pass, is it stealing? Against godless public schools, no. Justifiable smiting. We get to shake 'em down for their lunch money, too.

There have always been exclusive opportunities for the affluent or those accomplished enough to earn scholarships. What's interesting is the Republican bootstrap mantra no longer applies. What passes for bootstrapping these days is groveling for handouts like lowly welfare queens.


There oughta be a law.

There is, actually. The state constitution says, “No money raised for the support of the public schools … shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”

The dodge is comically absurd. They claim this money doesn't come from education appropriations. Let's dissect: Money for education isn't money for education.

“HB 1532 respects rather than penalizes parents who happen to choose a nonpublic school for their children,” says Chris Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference.

Penalizes? Oh. They're victims. The ones holding up the stagecoach.

“The bill respects the right of a child to education without unduly restricting where that child can receive that education,” Dodson concludes.

Cool. I can't wait to tee off at the country club.

Let's break it down further.


Churches that don't pay taxes want your taxes.

Mandatory tithing.

Although not formally elected, Holy Roman Chris is second in line to King Ron Ness in the state government organizational chart. As a matter of appearances, Doug Burgum's allowed accommodations in the governor's mansion, of course, but we know who's running the show — Big Oil and Big God.

Contact your representatives. If it passes, if taxpayers still have representation in state government, it'll be time to dust off that veto stamp. And maybe it's time to tax churches and their politicians.

Opinion by Tony Bender
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column from North Dakota for Forum News Service.
What To Read Next
Get Local