The Supreme Court ruled in the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case on Tuesday that private religious schools are now eligible for the same state tuition scholarships that other private schools are granted. The landmark decision will likely affect many religious institutions in coming days. The decision involves a 2018 instance in which the Montana Supreme Court ruled that three mothers who attempted to send their children to a private religious school with state scholarships could not do so according to their state constitution.
The Right, typically in favor of religious freedom and private school choice programs – which provide federal funds to low-income families in order to send their children to private schools – celebrates the decision. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praised the court’s decision to overturn the Montana ruling, which she said has “kept too many children away from a better education.” “Our Constitution requires equal treatment for religious people and institutions,” said a council member for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“When otherwise eligible recipients are disqualified from a public benefit ‘solely because of their religious character,’ we must apply strict scrutiny…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.”John Roberts, Supreme Court Chief Justice
The Left condemns the decision. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that Montana had not discriminated because rather than disallow funds to private religious schools, it entirely disbanded the private school tax credit program as a whole. The four dissenting judges strongly disapproved of the majority’s decision and voted in favor of “separation of church and state, including a ban on government funding of religious schools.” The Left, typically in support of public school choice, says the move will divert needed funds away from the already underfunded public education system.
“Forcing taxpayers to pay for private religious education…is a fundamental violation of their religious freedom…Too often, religious schools reject civil rights for women and LGBTQ people.”Rachel Laser, Americans United for Separation of Church and State president