To suggest that any "line-drawing process" between permissible and impermissible forms of government aid to religious schools is arbitrary is to misunderstand important legal and policy distinctions.
While the Supreme Court has allowed certain forms of government aid to flow to religious schools, it has drawn a line against aid that directly advances a religious institution's religious mission. For example, math textbooks, which can be provided to parochial schools, carry little likelihood of being diverted to another use. Computers intended for use in math instruction, however, are readily diverted to a range of uses, including many that might advance a sectarian institution's religious mission.
To prevent that from happening, safeguards would be necessary, and that leads to another problem. How could the state monitor what a religious institution is doing with a state-supplied computer without intruding into the religious institution's internal operation?
The Supreme Court should take this opportunity to reaffirm that taxpayers should not be asked to pay for computers to be provided to religious schools. The line the court previously drew, rejecting support for the religious mission of religious schools, is not arbitrary but logical and appropriate.
HOWARD P. BERKOWITZ