Supreme Court hands win to religious schools | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: June 30, 2020 at 1:45 pm

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that a Montanaprogram that excluded religious schools from a student aidinitiative violates religious freedoms protected under the U.S. Constitution.

The 5-4 majority decision, which fell along ideological lines, said that by making state-backed private school scholarships off-limits to parochial schools, the program ran afoul of First Amendment protections for the free exercise of religion, which prohibits the government from treating religious and secular groups differently.

A state need not subsidize private education, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.

The courts four more liberal justices dissented.

At the center of the dispute is a 2015 tax credit program the Montana legislature passed to promote school choice. Under the plan, taxpayers could receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit by donating up to $150 to organizations that used the donations to award student scholarships to private schools.

But the program clashed with the so-called no aid provision of Montanas state Constitution. That clause makes it illegal for government entities to give any direct or indirect appropriation or payment from any public fund or monies to religious organizations.

In 2018, the Montana Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that the tax creditscheme violated the no-aid provision and struck down the entire scholarship program. This prompted several Montana parents of Christian school students to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the ruling violated the First Amendments free exercise clause.

Updated at 10:52 a.m.

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Supreme Court hands win to religious schools | TheHill - The Hill

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