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Law & the Courts

Supreme Court Rules States Can’t Discriminate against Religious Schools

In a 5-4 decision in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow against Blaine amendments that prohibit public funds from aiding religious schools.

“A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” Chief Justice Roberts writes in a majority opinion holding that the application of Montana’s Blaine amendment in this case was a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Roberts’s opinion was joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.

In 2015, Montana set up a tax-credit system through which taxpayers could contribute $150 to a scholarship fund for children attending private schools, and the taxpayers contributing to the fund would then be reimbursed dollar-for-dollar. The Montana supreme court scrapped the program on the grounds that it violated the state constitution’s Blaine amendment. In response, a lawsuit was filed by Kendra Espinoza, a single mother of two who had benefited from the program.


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