US Supreme Court Allows Public Money for Religious Schools in Major Ruling

  • US Supreme Court Allows Public Money for Religious Schools in Major Ruling

US Supreme Court Allows Public Money for Religious Schools in Major Ruling

Montana's decision to leave religious schools out of a state scholarship program funded by tax credits violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a divided Supreme Court ruled this morning.

The program made no distinction as to whether parents could use the scholarships at religious or secular schools. The scholarships can be used at both secular and religious schools, but nearly all the recipients attend religious schools.

The justices faulted the Montana Supreme Court for voiding a taxpayer program merely because it can be used to fund religious entities, saying such action violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protection for the free exercise of religion.

Roberts wrote, "A state need not subsidize private education". In turn, those organizations make payments to qualifying families who wish to send their children to private schools, including religious institutions.

That same policy warns parents that by enrolling their children in the school "they agree that they will not publically [sic] act in opposition to Catholic teaching". Idaho is one of about three dozen states with a Blaine Amendment in its Constitution.

"No comparable "historic and substantial" tradition supports Montana's decision to disqualify religious schools from government aid". "At a time when public schools nationwide already are grappling with protecting and providing for students despite a pandemic and mounting budget shortfalls, the court has made things even worse opening the door for further attacks on state decisions not to fund religious schools", said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García.

In a 5-4 decision with the conservative justices in the majority and the liberal justices dissenting, the court backed a Montana program that gave tax incentives for people to donate to a scholarship fund that provided money to Christian schools for student tuition expenses. The amendments prohibit the use of public money to support religious entities, including parochial schools. After a lengthy legal fight, the state Supreme Court struck down the scholarship program in its entirety.

Justice Samuel Alito pointed, in a separate opinion, to evidence of anti-Catholic bigotry that he said motivated the original adoption of the Montana provision and others like it in the 1800s, although Montana's constitution was redone in 1972 with the provision intact.

Justice Kavanaugh was clear about that during oral arguments.

Roberts echoed that sentiment in the majority opinion, tying the "no aid" provision in the Montana constitution to the era of the Blaine Amendment. But if a state chooses to support private schools through grants or scholarships, it may not exclude some of them due to their religious affiliation.

The decision comes as surveys show support for President Donald Trump slipping among religious conservatives and could provide a needed buoy to his supporters as a Court he purported to stack with conservative jurists has delivered victories for liberals on abortion and LGBT rights in recent days. Still another case would shield religious institutions from more employment discrimination claims.

Every member of the U.S. Supreme Court filed an opinion in the case, except for Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan, suggesting passions may have run high during the justices' deliberative process.