The United States Supreme Court gave a major victory to school choice supporters, parents and students across the country by striking down a 19th century law designed to discriminate against Catholics.
In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that religious schools cannot be discriminated against in a state program funding students’ ability to attend private schools.
“A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
The ruling was praised by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) who, along with former Governor Scott Walker, filed two amicus briefs in the case.
“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court will expand education options for millions of American families,” said Libby Sobic, WILL Director of Education Policy. “This is a significant step towards a future where every child can attend the school that best meets their needs.”
The Court’s ruling strikes at the heart of the “Blaine Amendment” in Montana’s state constitution which prevent public funds from going to religious institutions. Blaine Amendments, 19th century state constitutional provisions used to discriminate against Catholics, have been used by school choice opponents to stop private school voucher programs from allowing students to use public funds to attend religious schools.
WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg commented on the importance of the ruling in ending discrimination against religious institutions.
“The Court’s decision reinforces the idea that our Constitution forbids government discrimination against religious organizations,” Esenberg said. “If the state creates a public benefit or program, religious organizations may not be excluded.”
The ruling was also praised by Jim Bender of School Choice Wisconsin, saying the ruling actually helps school choice in this state.
“Today’s ruling adds further structural support for school choice programs to include all types of schools in their offerings to families,” Bender said. “Wisconsin’s school choice programs are made stronger with this Supreme Court decision.”