U.S. Supreme Court Hands Victory to School Choice Advocates

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This week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case, stating a Montana Supreme Court ruling striking down a state school choice program because it allowed parents to choose to send their children to private religious schools was unconstitutional in violation of the Free Exercise Clause. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, ruled that when a state chooses to create a school choice program that is available to all, it cannot discriminate against religious schools solely because they are religious. "A State need not subsidize private education," he said, "[b]ut once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious."

The MCC has long advocated for school choice programs that would help parents afford to send their children to parish schools. Over the years, various programs have been proposed, including ones creating tax credits for cash donations made to foundations that provide scholarships to private school students. These programs have faced great opposition in the Missouri legislature and from public school lobbyists. If the Missouri legislature ever passes a school choice program, this ruling will help open the door to students attending Catholic schools.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Catholic Education, praised the court's ruling, stating "[t]he Court has rightly ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to discriminate against religion. This decision means that religious persons and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all. This is good news, not only for people of faith, but for our country. A strong civil society needs the full participation of religious institutions. By ensuring the rights of faith-based organizations' freedom to serve, the Court is also promoting the common good."

July 7, 2020 - 6:19am
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