FFRF signs onto AHA brief challenging tax credit for religious schools

It's wrong to fund religious schools with taxpayer dollars, say the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other advocates for state-church separation in an amicus brief filed in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, the court will consider if an Arizona tax credit for donations to groups that offer scholarships to attend private schools is constitutional. The groups are called School Tuition Organizations (STOs).

Kathleen M. Winn and a group of taxpayers challenged the program, in effect since 1997. The program allows dollar-for-dollar income tax credits for individuals contributing to STOs. In recent years, more than 80 percent of scholarship dollars were awarded by religious organizations.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the taxpayers.

Main issues before the Supreme Court include whether Winn et al. have taxpayer standing and whether the tax credit is unconstitutional because it overwhelmingly is used for the support of private religious instruction.

"This program is a way for religious groups to funnel tax dollars to private schools," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. "It's blatant government endorsement of religion."

Gaylor is also concerned that, given the ideological makeup of the court, it may broaden a 2002 ruling allowing tax-funded school vouchers if parents have “genuine choice” not to send their children to religious schools.

FFRF signed onto an amicus brief submitted by American Humanist Association legal counsel Bob Ritter and signed by several other groups.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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