NM Supreme Court Approves Program Lending Textbooks to Religious Schools

Published January 29, 2019

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled a state program that lends textbooks to private schools, including religious ones, is constitutional.

The court’s December 12, 2018 decision reversed its own 2015 ruling that the textbook lending program was unconstitutional, which it was required to reconsider by order of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

SCOTUS required the state court to reconsider the case in light of the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. vs. Comer.

Cites Trinity Lutheran

In the Trinity Lutheran case, the state of Missouri refused to grant government funds to a church-run preschool to resurface its playground under a program that benefited nonreligious private schools. SCOTUS said an institution cannot be barred from a state aid program just because it is religious.

In the New Mexico case, Moses v. Ruszkowski, the state Supreme Court ruled its original decision did not accord with First Amendment guarantees of free exercise of religion, in light of the Trinity Lutheran ruling.

The court also found the textbook loan program does not violate the state constitution’s Blaine provisions, which prohibit aid to sectarian schools, because the textbook program is a benefit to the students and “[a]ny benefit to private schools is purely incidental.”

‘Equality to All’

The New Mexico decision recognizes the equal rights of all students, says Lennie Jarratt, project manager for the Center for Transforming Education at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

“This ruling brings equality to all students, since the state is no longer allowed to discriminate against a school solely due to it having a religious affiliation,” said Jarratt.

“These schools can now borrow state-purchased textbooks and computer programs the same as nonreligious schools,” Jarratt said.

Joe Barnett ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.

Internet Info

Teresa Mull, “SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Schools’ Religious Liberty,” School Choice Weekly #184, The Heartland Institute, June 28, 2017: