The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, 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 “Friend of the Court” brief was filed Wednesday in the case of Espinoza v Montana Department of Revenue. It 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 4-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.
The arguments in the brief filed yesterday centered on urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling because it improperly singles out religion as a basis to deny families benefits they otherwise qualify for and in doing so violates the First Amendment. Further, it discriminates against religious choices in generally available student-aid programs – another First Amendment violation.
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 the Espinoza case, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to clearly reject the anti-religious Blaine Amendments and thus advance religious liberty for all Americans of all faiths.”
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 hopes 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 OU’s advocacy has spearheaded the creation or expansion of many state aid programs to support parental choice in education. We are eager for a strong ruling from the Supreme Court in this case to solidify the long-term beneficial impact of these important programs.”
Oral arguments before the Court are expected in a few months and a ruling is expected next June.