(The Center Square) – A small Catholic school in suburban Milwaukee is getting another chance for some state aid after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on sending public money to religious schools.
The Supreme Court ordered that a lower court once again hear the case involving St. Augustine School in Richfield.
St. Augustine applied for, and was denied, state money for busing because another Catholic school in the area already got state aid. Wisconsin law at the time provided busing aid to just one religious school per school district. St. Augustine, and the family who wanted school uses for their kids, sued in 2016. They lost twice, and then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019.
Last week the Supreme Court ordered a new hearing after the recent Espinoza v. Montana ruling.
“The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit for further consideration in light of Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue,” the court said in a written order.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty followed and helped in both cases. WILL said the decision in Espinoza v. Montana struck down that state’s Blaine Amendment and opened the door for school choice and religious schools across the country.
“The Court’s decision reinforces the idea that our Constitution forbids government discrimination against religious organizations. If the state creates a public benefit or program, religious organizations may not be excluded,” WILL President Rick Esenberg said of the Espinoza decision.
On Monday, Esenberg doubled down on that idea.
“St. Augustine and its families were denied a public benefit because they believe they are called to follow their faith in the Catholic tradition, but in a different way from and outside the auspices of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They were penalized for what they believe. Our Constitution does not permit that,” Esenberg added.
St. Augustine board principal Tim Zignego said the case is, and always has been, about fairness.
“Whether schools and parents receive state aid should not depend on the way the school defines its religious identity,” Zinego said.
A new hearing date has not been set.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.