SCOTUS lowers wall between church and state with school ruling

The Supreme Court of the United States. Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court of the United States. Credit Wikimedia Commons

"The Department suggests that the no-aid provision safeguards public education by ensuring that government support is not diverted to private schools, but that interest does not justify a no-aid provision that requires only religious private schools to bear its weight", Roberts responded.

"Its judgment put all private school parents in the same boat", wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a dissenting opinion.

"A State need not subsidize private education", he said, "but once a State decides to do so, it can not disqualify some private schools exclusively because they are religious".

"The Blaine Amendment was "born of bigotry" and "arose at a time of pervasive hostility to the Catholic Church and to Catholics in general"; many of its state counterparts have a similarly 'shameful pedigree [,]'" Roberts wrote, citing a previous Supreme Court ruling and a law review article.

The Montana Supreme Court had struck down the K-12 private education scholarship program that was created by the Legislature in 2015 to make donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. Three mothers blocked from using scholarship funds for a Christian school turned around and sued. The Trump administration supported the parents' Supreme Court appeal. "Today's decision marks a major victory for school choice and equality under the law".

The case is Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.

Rachel Laser, president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, contended that numerous religious schools participating in Montana's program had discriminatory policies. "Then, seeing no other "mechanism" to make absolutely sure that religious schools received no aid, the court chose to invalidate the entire program".

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.

The Trinity Lutheran decision came to "the "unremarkable" conclusion that disqualifying otherwise eligible recipients from a public benefit "solely due to their religious character" imposes 'a penalty on the free exercise of religion that triggers the most exacting scrutiny, '" Roberts wrote.

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Abbott made the comments during an interview with CBS affiliate KFDA-TV in Amarillo, Texas . Abbott in a statement , encouraging Texans to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The high court's decision is "as much of a certain death blow [to Blaine Amendments] as we could have asked for", said Diana Verm, senior counsel at Becket, a religious liberty organization.

McDonald, of the Catholic educational association, also predicted that the ruling would bring swift changes in ME and Vermont, where parents have been able to get public funds for tuition at secular private schools, but not at faith-based schools. Thirty-eight states have such constitutional provisions. "This decision by the U.S. Supreme Court will allow many families to have the ability to select the school that they believe would provide the best quality of education for their children".

Furthermore, Roberts noted, "A state need not subsidize private education".

Ethan Blevins, an attorney with the Sacramento, California-based Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a public interest law firm that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, praised the court decision.

National Council of Young Israel president Farley Weiss told JNS, "The Supreme Court properly ruled that these programs should not be withheld from private schools, which must be treated impartially, whether religiously affiliated or not".

School teachers and other advocates who campaigned for a ruling in their favor denounced the decision as an assault on public education.

Teachers' unions and leftwing civil liberties groups see the case as a serious threat to public education and religious neutrality in civic life.

"It is a radical departure from our Constitution, American history and our values", Weingarten said.

In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor described the ruling as "perverse".

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