July 2, 2020

Supreme Court on Religious Schools

States can’t cut religious schools out of programs that send public money to private education, a divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.” AP News

“By a vote of 5-4, the justices ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that the state court’s interpretation of the Montana constitution violated the U.S. Constitution, which protects the free exercise of religion. States are not required to subsidize private education, Chief Justice John Roberts explained in his opinion for the majority. But if they opt to do so, they cannot exclude religious schools from receiving those funds simply because they are religious.” SCOTUSblog

See past issues

From the Right

The right applauds the decision as a victory for religious freedom and school choice.

From the Left

The left sees the decision as a violation of the separation of church and state, and worries that it will lead to adverse consequences.

The left sees the decision as a violation of the separation of church and state, and worries that it will lead to adverse consequences.

The libertarian take

“As education scholar Matthew Ladner recently pointed out, ‘public schools in [the 19th century] were pervasively religious, but ‘non-sectarian,’ meaning vaguely Protestant.’ The Blaine Amendments were therefore used to favor the majority religious group, Protestants, over religious minorities such as Catholics (and Jews), by barring funding to their ‘sectarian’ schools. Some of American history’s most odious groups, including the Know-Nothings and the Ku Klux Klan, warned of a ‘Catholic Menace’ and even fought to outlaw private schooling altogether in states like Oregon…

“The US Supreme Court’s decision in the Montana case marks another step toward erasing the stain of anti-Catholic hatred written into the laws of many states… The ruling built on precedent. In a 2002 case, the Supremes had held that voucher programs can be ­legally used to pay for religious schools. That’s because the funding goes to families, which can then choose to send their kids to religious or nonreligious private schools. It’s the same reason why publicly funded Pell Grants can be used at private universities with religious affiliations without violating the Establishment Clause.”
Corey DeAngelis, New York Post

“You don't have to adopt many conservatives' unduly narrow interpretation of the Establishment Clause (which they interpret as barring only the establishment of an official church or as directly coercing people to take part in its services) to recognize that nondiscrimination is not establishment. Even if government endorsement of religion also qualifies as an ‘establishment,’ merely treating religious institutions the same as secular ones does not count as such an endorsement. For example, no one claims that the government endorses religion when it gives legal effect to religious wedding ceremonies on the same basis as purely secular ones.”
Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy

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