On December 12, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the Montana tax-credit scholarship program is unconstitutional in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The ruling was based on Montana’s Blaine Amendment, which states: “The legislature, counties, cities, towns, school districts, and public corporations shall not make any direct or indirect appropriation or payment from any public fund or monies, or any grant of lands or other property 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.”
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“Ruling against tax-credit scholarship program denies many underserved Montana students a choice of a better education. This ruling clearly implies the court believes an individual who is allowed to keep more of their own money is really being given funds from state coffers, i.e. the court believes an individual’s income belongs to the state instead of the individual.
This case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, providing them a chance to rule on state Blaine amendments. These are state constitutional amendments that specifically disallow any state monies from being appropriated to religious institutions.”
“Before this unfortunate ruling by the Montana Supreme Court, not a single one of the 22 other tax-credit scholarship programs enacted in 17 different states had been struck down. These programs have already essentially been ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011, when it dismissed the challenge to Arizona’s program, Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. It will take the Supreme Court to reverse this decision, and hopefully it will do so, noting how Montana is discriminating against its religious residents by blocking them from receiving public benefits.”
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