Ethics & Religion
A Column by Michael J. McManus
 

Home
Page

For Current Column
See the Home Page

 

About the
Columnist

 

Search this
Site...

 

Column Archives
List of all columns 
2021
2020

2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012

2011

2010

2009
2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

For 2003 and earlier
only the title is listed.
Use the Search Function
to find the article.

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

 

About The
Columnist

 

Email
Comments
to Mike

Ethics & Religion
Column #2,029
July 2, 2020
Religious Advocates Win at Supreme Court
By Mike McManus

This week the Supreme Court ruled that states which aid private schools must include religious ones. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a conservative majority in a 5-4 ruling, said the Constitution's protection of the free exercise of religion requires equal treatment for religious schools and parents who want to send their children to them.

"A state need not subsidize private education," he wrote, "But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious."

The Court declared that the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to strike down a tuition assistance program established by the state legislature in 2015. It allowed tax incentives for scholarships to private schools including religious schools. The Supreme Court said Montana could not cut families off from a scholarship program available to all because they wanted to send their children to religious schools. This ruling strengthens the bedrock principle that states cannot discriminate against their citizens because of their faith.

In a landmark ruling, Roberts said the religious protections of the U.S. Constitution prevail. It holds implications for public financing of religious institutions in other areas and continues a recent pattern of the Supreme Court erasing stark lines in the separating of church and state.

In the Montana case, the Chief Justice was joined by the court's four most conservative justices. This was a stark contrast with Roberts voting recently with the court's liberals to strike down a Louisiana abortion law.

Montana gave businesses the opportunity to pay into an exchange for tax credits. The funds were then distributed to low-income families as modest scholarships (no more than $150) to help pay for tuition at private K-12 schools. However, the Montana Department of Revenue refused to allow the scholarship money to be used in religious schools.

Therefore, a group of low-income mothers who sought to use the scholarship money to help send their children to religious schools - sued the Department of Revenue, claiming this was a violation of their First Amendment Free Exercise rights. A district court agreed with the mothers, but the Montana Supreme Court struck down the entire program to avoid conflict.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the ruling "weakened this country's long-standing commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both."

Roberts responded that the Montana Legislature did not want the program to end. "The Montana Legislature created the scholarship program; the Legislature never chose to end it." He added, "The program was eliminated by a court and not based on some innocuous principle of state law. Rather, the Montana Supreme Court invalidated the program pursuant to a state law provision that expressly discriminates on the basis of religious status."

Montana's 2015 law made no distinction as to whether parents could use the scholarships at religious or secular schools. About 70% of private schools in the state are religious.

The Montana Supreme Court said that ran counter to a state constitutional prohibition on public funds for "any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination."

The challenge to the law was brought by the Institute for Justice on behalf of Kendra Espinoza, a single mother who sends her two children to a Christian school in Kalispell, Montana. "I wanted my kids to be taught with a morals- and values-based education and higher academic standards by teachers that love them and teach them from God's word and not just teach from the more liberal perspective."

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his opinion, "The Constitution forbids laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion. That guarantee protects not just the right to be a religious person, holding beliefs inwardly and secretly; it also protects the right to act on those beliefs outwardly and publicly."

Chief Justice Roberts argued that "The Free Exercise Clause protects against even indirect coercion., and a state `punishes the free exercise of religion' by disqualifying the religious from government aid as Montana did here.

"Should a state choose to create generally available scholarship programs, they may not bar families from using the money at religious schools."

The Chief Justice added, "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."

Amen!

_________________________

Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.com. Hit Search for any topic.

 

  Since 1981...
2000+ Columns
  LATEST ARTICLE
  October 20, 2021: Column 2097: Blacks Must Consider Marriage
  Recent Columns
  Is Prayer Effective
  United Methodist Church Is Splitting
  How To Pay for Biden's Initiatives
  Newspapers Are Vanishing
  Texas Abortion Law - A Disaster
  U.S. Is Wise to Leave Afghanistan
  How To Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations
  Leaving Afghanistan Is Devastating
  How To Increase Vaccinations
  The Need to End Catholic Priest Celibacy
  Build More Wind Farms
  More Lessons For Life
  Lessons For Life
  The Rich Should Pay More Tax
  Rebuilding Marriage in America
  40th Anniversary of My Column
  Richmond Columnist Wins Pulitzer Prize
  55 Corporations Pay No Tax
  How To Reduce Drunk Driving Deaths
  The Value of Couples Praying Together
  New Anti-Black Discrimination
  Reaching Age 80
  Do Not Leave Afghanistan
  Stop Executions for Murder
  A Case for Pro-Life
  End The Death Penalty?
  Christian Choices Matter
  The Biblical Sexual Standard
  The Addictive Nature of Pornography
  Abortion Becoming Illegal
  Protecting Girls from Suicide
  The Worst Valentine: Cohabitation
  Pornography: A Public Health Hazard
  Sextortion Kills Teens
  Cohabitation: A Risky Business
  Recent Searches
  gun control, euthanasia, cohabitation, sexting, sextortion, alcoholism, prayer, guns, same sex marriage, abortion, depression, islam, divorce, polygamy, religious liberty, health care, pornography, teen sex, abortion and infanticide, Roe+v+Wade, supreme court, marriage, movies, violence, celibacy, living+together, cohabitation, ethics+and+religion, pornography, adultery, divorce, saving+marriages
2021 Michael J. McManus syndicated columnist
Ethics & Religion at http://www.ethicsandreligion.com
Site Sponsored by enktesis.com