Policy Documents

Winn v. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (2009)

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals –
April 21, 2009

Arizona law grants income tax credits restricted to taxpayers who make contributions to nonprofit organizations that award private school scholarships to children. Plaintiffs, certain Arizona taxpayers, allege that some of the organizations funded under this program restrict the availability of their scholarships to religious schools, and that the program in effect deprives parents, the program’s aid recipients, of a genuine choice between selecting scholarships to private secular schools or religious ones. We conclude that the plaintiffs’ complaint, which at this stage of the litigation we must view in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, sufficiently alleges that Arizona’s tax-credit funded scholarship program lacks religious neutrality and true private choice in making scholarships available to parents. Although scholarship aid is allocated partially through the individual choices of Arizona taxpayers, overall the program in practice “carries with it the imprimatur of government endorsement.” Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639, 655 (2002). We therefore hold, contrary to the district court, that plaintiffs’ allegations, if accepted as true, are sufficient to state a claim that Arizona’s private school scholarship tax credit program, as applied, violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.