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Supreme Court Gives Victory to Conservatives on Schools

Upholds Montana program that aids religious schools
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 30, 2020 10:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it easier for religious schools to obtain public funds, upholding a Montana scholarship program that allows state tax credits for private schooling, per the AP. The court's 5-4 ruling, with conservatives in the majority, came in a dispute over a Montana scholarship program for private K-12 education that also makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. The Legislature created the tax credit in 2015 for contributions made to certain scholarship programs for private education. The state's highest court had struck down the tax credit as a violation of the Montana constitution's ban on state aid to religious schools. The scholarships can be used at both secular and religious schools, but almost all the recipients attend religious schools.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion that said the state ruling violates the religious freedom of parents who want the scholarships to help pay for their children's private education. "A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious," Roberts wrote. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent that the high-court ruling "is perverse. Without any need or power to do so, the Court appears to require a State to reinstate a tax-credit program that the Constitution did not demand in the first place." Parents whose children attend religious schools sued to preserve the program. (Monday's win for advocates of abortion rights might be fleeting.)

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