Supreme Court Ruling Could Allow Public Money to Be Used for Religious Schools in Montana


The U.S Supreme Court heard a case on Wednesday that could open doors to public money paying for religious private schools in Montana.

Around 500,000 students nationwide attend private schools using publicly funded tuition vouchers or tax-credit scholarships that provide tax credit for those who donate to organizations providing scholarships to private schools.

Legislation passed in 2015 allows Montana to be one of 18 states to allow students to use such tax credits, but the state’s executive branch barred the use of those tax credits at religiously affiliated schools the following year. The branch cited the Blaine Amendment, a state amendment that prohibits the use of public money to support sectarian schools.

The amendment is named after James G. Blaine, who proposed adding an amendment barring the use of public money to support religiously affiliated schools to the U.S. Constitution in 1875. Although it was unsuccessful nationally, 37 states passed it on a state level.

The case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which was heard on Wednesday, seeks to overturn Montana’s executive branch barring the use of tax credits from religious schools.

Kendra Espinoza, using a tax-credit scholarship, enrolled a child at Stillwater Christian Schools in Kalispell, Montana. She and other parents are now suing the state after the use of that tax credit was subsequently barred.

The state Supreme Court reversed a ruling from the lower court, agreeing with the Montana Department of Revenue and saying that the tax-credit scholarship program was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court struck down part of the Blaine amendment in a similar case in Missouri after a church playground was denied materials by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in 2017.

Nearly 70 percent of Montana’s private schools are religiously affiliated.

Both Alliance for Choice in Education and EdChoice have filed “friend of the court” briefs to support Espinoza. The Tennessee Education Association and other teacher advocacy organizations have filed briefs in support of the state.

A ruling is expected to be handed down in July, according to Future-Ed.

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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]
Photo “Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue” by Institute for Justice. CC BY 4.0.






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2 Thoughts to “Supreme Court Ruling Could Allow Public Money to Be Used for Religious Schools in Montana”

  1. William R. Delzell

    Using public tax money for religious schools actually ENDANGERS religious freedom by making those churches who receive such money potentially subservient to the government that doles out the money. Remember the old saying about he or she who controls the purse strings. Those who allow government to financially preferential treatment to a given religion or church will damage that particular religion’s independence and integrity. What happens if the government that gives decides to do something that the recipient religion suddenly disapproves of? Where will that religion turn to if it has no other financial source than the government? This is the road to theocracy; that is not freedom of religion. Our Constitution not only allows us to worship as we please but even gives us the freedom not to worship at all. That is true Americanism! Don’t let these fundamentalists like Pat Robertson and Tammy Faye Baker fool you.

  2. Ralph

    The TEA, yet again, showing its roots and advocating the NEA position – and in Tennessee, one of the most religiously oriented states in the union.

    Anyone who has their children enrolled in public schools, wherever, needs to watch the schools, the local boards of education, and even the public library, like a hawk. Better still to get your kids outta there ASAP – home school or private school.

    Gov. Lee was all about getting the voucher program pushed through. The current Speaker, and the state senator for this district, voted against it…even though both are Republican and ostensibly conservative – why? Jobs. The public school system is one of the biggest employers in the county and more for the insurance benefits, for them and their families, than it is about the income. It’d be interesting to see the amount of political contributions they receive from TEA and NEA union members.

    Kids play a distant second to that…they do. That’s why Tennessee has such a dismal rating in terms of educational achievement compared to other states. You can thank TEA for that too, at least in part.