I haven’t read the decision, so I’ll just leave this in passing. But save your approbation for Chief Justice Roberts, for he joined the court’s 5-4 majority, and wrote the opinion that tax money could be used to support religious schools. The Montana Supreme Court had previously struck down a voucher scheme for school funding because that scheme would have given financial aid to religious schools, violating the Constitution. Religious people brought an appeal, requesting funding for private schools that included religious ones (the bulk of Montana’s private schools). Now the Supremes have ruled that the scheme was indeed Constitutional, and Montana can go ahead and tax people, with some of the money going to vouchers for religious schools.
Here’s the summary from SCOTUSblog (click on screenshot):
The first link below goes to the entire opinion:
Judgment: Reversed and remanded, 5-4, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts on June 30, 2020. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Gorsuch joined. Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion. Justice Gorsuch filed a concurring opinion. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Kagan joined. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Kagan joined as to Part I. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.
From the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which filed an amicus brief:
In Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court, which held that a neo-voucher school funding scheme violates the “No Aid” to religion clause of the state Constitution. The state court struck down the entire neo-voucher scheme as it applied to all private education, religious and secular. Nearly 90 percent of Montana’s private schools are affiliated with religion. Christian parents, represented by the pro-voucher Institute of Justice, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to declare that No Aid clauses violate the federal Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, illogically ruled that religious schools were indeed being singled out.
“A state need not subsidize private education,” the majority judgment states. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
The absurdity of the majority decision is laid bare in a dissenting opinion. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, points out that the Montana Supreme Court had made no distinction between religious and nonreligious schools.
“Because Montana’s Supreme Court did not make such a decision — its judgment put all private school parents in the same boat — this court had no occasion to address the matter,” the dissent states. It adds: “The state court struck the program in full. In doing so, the court never made religious schools ineligible for an otherwise available benefit, and it never decided that the Free Exercise Clause would allow that outcome.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor has a stinging dissent of her own.
“Today’s ruling is perverse,” she writes. “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. [The court] rejects the Religion Clauses’ balanced values in favor of a new theory of free exercise, and it does so only by setting aside well-established judicial constraints.”
To show the absurdity of this ruling, which reinstated the voucher system including religious schools when it didn’t have to reinstate anything, reader Tom cited this paragraph from Gorsuch’s and Thomas’s concurring opinion.
Seriously? “Properly understood, the Establishment Clause does not prohibit States from favoring religion”? The Establishment Clause was put into place to prevent the government from promoting religion and favoring one religion over another. This ruling clearly uses government funds to promote religion in religious schools, and it favors Catholics, who surely run the bulk of Montana’s religious schools.
“They can legislate as they wish”. There goes the First Amendment, and the noise you hear is the toppling of the long-established but recently-eroding wall between church and state. This is a really, really bad, and importantly bad, decision. It moves us closer to the theocracy that Trump and his supporters want.