The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (“Orthodox Union”), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, applauds today’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court that the application of a “no aid to religion” clause in the Montana State Constitution to exclude the use of state-supported education scholarship funds to attend religious K-12 schools violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 5-4 ruling is in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue and was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts.
The Orthodox Union joined other national religious organizations in filing a ‘friend of the court’ brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision of the Montana Supreme Court that relied upon an anti-religious state constitutional provision in striking down a Montana tax credit program that supported scholarships to attend non-public K-12 schools, including religious schools.
The case was brought by a single mother in Montana who relied on state scholarships to help her pay tuition to keep her children enrolled in a private Christian school. The state’s four-year-old tax credit scholarship program initially enabled economically disadvantaged families to send their children to any nonpublic school. But the Montana Department of Revenue later took action to prohibit the scholarship from being used for religious schools and the Montana Supreme Court struck down the program in its entirety due to the inclusion of use for religious schools. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that ruling.
Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament stated:
“The essential promise of the First Amendment’s religion clauses is to guarantee religious freedom in the United States by requiring government neutrality toward religion. A state discriminating against religion is just as unconstitutional as a state promoting one particular religion. In its ruling today in Espinoza, the Supreme Court has clearly rejected any kind of discrimination based upon the religious “status” of a family, school or student. The high court makes clear that the Free Exercise Clause demands the equal treatment of religious citizens and institutions in government programs.”
Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“All parents and families should have the right to make the best choice for their children’s education. By participating in this case, the Orthodox Union sought to protect all families against institutional, anti-faith discrimination not just in Montana but in all states that attempt to favor a secular ideology in students’ education.”
Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin stated:
“Over the past decade, the Orthodox Union’s advocacy work has spearheaded the creation or expansion of many state aid programs to support parental choice in education. Today’s strong ruling from the Supreme Court solidifies the legal bases for these programs and bolsters their long-term benefits for the Jewish community and other faith communities.”