Posted by 22 January 2020
Thirty-seven states have constitutional prohibitions on government money going towards religious education. Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether those amendments are discrimination against religion or whether they are essential to preserving the separation of church and state.
The case originates in Montana, and is being brought by a parent who was using a state-funded scholarship program to pay for tuition at a private religious school. The parent’s children had suffered bullying and other problems at their public school, and so she used a state scholarship program to pay for private school.
Under Montana’s scholarship program, individuals could donate money to the fund and the state would give them a tax credit of up to $150. Parents could apply to use the money in the fund to pay for tuition at any private school in the state, including religious schools. The Montana Supreme Court ruled that this arrangement violated a constitutional ban on state money going to religious schools.
Many states have similar prohibitions, known as “Blaine Amendments.” They originated in the late 1900s, when there was growing concern about Catholic private schools. Opponents of these provisions argue that they are motivated by religious bigotry. They say that it is unconstitutional to allow funding to go to some private schools but not religious schools. There have been recent Supreme Court cases that have followed this line of reasoning in other areas, but have never directly ruled on the constitutionality of the Blaine Amendment.
Supporters of the prohibition on money going to religious schools say that taxpayer dollars should not be used to support religious education. They also argue that this will divert money from public schools, leading to worse education for the majority of students.
Do you think that states should be able to prohibit taxpayer dollars from going to religious schools?