The U.S. Supreme Court has just announced its intention to further chip away at the wall of separation in its next term.
Today, the court indicated it will review Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case in which the Montana Supreme Court struck down the state’s tax credit program for those who donate to private school scholarships. The state court had ruled that the program violated the state constitution’s “no aid to religion” clause.
The activist judges in the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority are now stretching to find ways to protect religious privilege, contends the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Montana Supreme Court struck down a tax credit program that was not just for religious schools, but for all private schools. The court ruled 5-2 in December 2018 that the program, which provides a tax credit of up to $150 per year to individuals and corporations that donate to tuition scholarship organizations, “violates Montana’s constitutional guarantee to all Montanans that their government will not use state funds to aid religious schools.”
The Montana Supreme Court judgment in no way implicated religious freedom, despite the cries of “persecution” coming from the petitioners. The state cannot be compelled to fund private schooling, and the state Supreme Court ruling presents no important federal questions, but that doesn’t appear to matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has already gone out of its way to undermine decades of legal precedent on church/state separation.
The decision by the court to review the Montana case signals that the majority may be gunning for the strong provisions in most state constitutions that bar public school funds going to religion or religious schools. This development raises grave concerns.
Secular forces in this country will continue our fight for the Constitution. The Freedom From Religion Foundation intends to submit an amicus brief in this case.
“Preserving our secular public education system is one of our most important missions,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We are determined to speak up for it.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog organization with more than 31,000 nonreligious members and several chapters all over the country dedicated to defending the secular U.S. Constitution.