Christian school students win religious liberty case
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 6/30/20, 12:22 pm
The state of Montana violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by barring students from using public tax breaks to pay for tuition at religious schools, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. The justices voted 5-4 to overturn the Montana Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the program based on the state’s Blaine Amendment, which prohibits public money from going to an organization “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.” Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
What was the reasoning? In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts cited the court’s decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, which said states cannot block organizations from participating in government programs and funding just because they are religious. He rejected the argument that the decision should hinge on Locke v. Davey, in which the high court ruled a student could not use a public scholarship to go to seminary to train for ministry. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch warned in a concurring opinion that the court faces a larger problem with its interpretation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
Dig deeper: Read the background on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue from Steve West’s report in Liberties.
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