Violating the First Amendment, the Supreme Court rules that taxpayer money can be used to send kids to religious schools

June 21, 2022 • 12:00 pm

Further eroding the wall between church and state, the Supreme Court ruled today by a margin of 6-3 (get used to that vote!) that the state of Maine MUST allow taxpayer-funded vouchers for students who want to go to religious schools.  This means that we, the taxpayers, must surrender some of our hard-earned dosh to subsidize religious instruction. This has violated all precedent, as the articles below explain.

You can read the decision here.

Judge Roberts, who voted with the conservative majority, called the “no-religious-vouchers” law of Maine “discrimination against religion.” I can see that argument (though I disagree with it), except that the private or public schools normally funded with such vouchers do not push a religious point of view. In fact, if I had my way there would be no vouchers at all, so Roberts’s argument wouldn’t apply. You either send your kids to public schools, homeschool them, or, if you can afford it, PAY for private schools, religious or not. If you think the public schools aren’t good enough for your kid, or are too secular, pay for them to go to “better” schools. If I’m going to pay for improved education, I want it to be through higher taxes to improve PUBLIC schools.

Click below to read the CNN article:

An excerpt

The Supreme Court said Tuesday that Maine cannot exclude religious schools from a tuition assistance program that allows parents to use vouchers to send their children to public or private schools.

The 6-3 ruling is the latest move by the conservative court to expand religious liberty rights and bring more religion into public life, a trend bolstered by the addition of three of former President Donald Trump’s nominees.

“Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise.”

Roberts was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The three liberal justices dissented.

It is a loss for critics who say the decision will amount to a further erosion of the separation between church and state. Although only one other state, Vermont, has a similar program, the court’s ruling could inspire other states to pass similar programs.

Writing a dissent joined by Justice Elena Kagan and in part by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Stephen Breyer said the court had “never previously held what the Court holds today, namely, that a State must (not may) use state funds to pay for religious education as part of a tuition program designed to ensure the provision of free statewide public school education.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation also has a new piece analyzing the decision, which you can read by clicking below:

From the FFRF analysis:

The court has gone contrary to the country’s foundational constitutional principles in striking down Maine’s “no aid” law, a provision meant to ensure that no citizen is forced to fund religious indoctrination at private religious schools, or any religious education that conflicts with their personal beliefs. The Supreme Court’s judicial activism and faulty reasoning will undoubtedly lead to many additional violations and litigation in other states as Christian nationalists seek to fund private Christian education with taxpayer money.

The plaintiffs want to use state money in this instance to send their children to Christian schools that provide religious instruction. One of the schools in question, Bangor Christian School, has a mission of instilling a biblical worldview that is “completely intertwined” with the curriculum and identifies the bible as its “final authority in all matters.” The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in its judgment two years ago that the “nonsectarian” requirement in Maine’s tuition assistance program did not exclude religious schools based on their religious status, but rather protected the state’s interest in only supporting nonreligious education.

You citizens of Maine: if you accept evolution, you’re probably giving money to parents to have their kids taught creationism.

However, the majority opinion, written by Justice John Roberts, asserts that Maine’s law impermissibly infringes on the rights of religious schools: “A State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.” Roberts added, “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.”

This claim misconstrues the real religious freedom at stake in the case, which is the right of every taxpayer to be free from funding religious indoctrination, and the right of every student in Maine to an education free from religiously motivated discrimination. Shockingly, the Supreme Court’s opinion explicitly acknowledges that private religious schools are very different from the public school education that Maine’s program is intended to offer. Roberts notes, “private schools are different by definition because they do not have to accept all students. Public schools generally do,” and moreover, “the curriculum taught at participating private schools need not even resemble that taught in the Maine public schools.”

And look at this!

The two religious schools acting as plaintiffs in the case “candidly admit that they discriminate against homosexuals, individuals who are transgender and non-Christians,” according to Maine’s brief to the Supreme Court. But rather than observing that these differences warrant Maine’s decision to limit its funding to schools that do not indoctrinate students, the court reasons that giving money to any private school means the state must fund religious education as well.

And from Sotomayor’s strong dissent:

In a blistering dissent, Sotomayor writes: “What a difference five years makes. In 2017, I feared that the Court was ‘lead[ing] us . . . to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment.’ Today, the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation. ​​If a State cannot offer subsidies to its citizens without being required to fund religious exercise, any State that values its historic antiestablishment interests more than this Court does will have to curtail the support it offers to its citizens. With growing concern for where this Court will lead us next, I respectfully dissent.”

I don’t think we should have to subsidize private education when we have public schools, but I object even more when that private education is religious, as forcing taxpayers to subsidize learning about Moses or Jesus or Allah is forcing the government to fund religion. And that’s a violation of the First Amendment.

Get used to a 6-3 vote (Breyer will be replace by the liberal Ketanji Brown Jackson). It is the vote that will be used to tear down the wall between church and state.

“Judge Roberts, stop tearing down that wall!”

68 thoughts on “Violating the First Amendment, the Supreme Court rules that taxpayer money can be used to send kids to religious schools

  1. The only hope I can see is that where this practice is allowed, Muslims will set up schools teaching strict Sharia laws, the Satanic Temple will establish a school, etc., etc. Then let’s see what the Xian legislatures and judges think.

    1. Muslims will set up schools teaching strict Sharia laws,

      They haven’t already? They’ve been a reality in Britain for … well over a decade, maybe two.
      Don’t the various states have the option of contractually specifying, possibly on each and every “voucher”, that the school cashing it has effectively become an arm of the government, and therefore must adhere to the First Amendment, backed up with no-notice inspection and failing schools being disbarred from receiving the vouchers until they have passed an inspection?
      I bet that applying such evidence-centric thinking won’t fly. ‘Murca ; god ; QED.

      1. > They haven’t already?

        They have. It leads to discussions in the US where people claim that Islam is not a religion and not protected by the First Amendment. Watching people worm their way around the question is depressing.

        1. It leads to discussions in the US where people claim that Islam is not a religion…

          That I have not heard, not yet. If not a religion, what do these people consider Islam to be?

          I can understand a religious person who has a strong belief in his religion claiming that the First Amendment is preventing public-school kids from being taught an important and elementary truth. If one believes that the idiotic statements of one’s religion are true, that is where one is led.

          I have not heard this question put to American theologians who believe in the Resurrection. If they think it happened, would they support teaching it in public schools? I suppose they would say yes. On the other hand, I wonder if it will make them reconsider what we mean by ‘true’. After all, the word ‘religion’ suggests content that is not demonstrably true, if not demonstrably false 🙂 The same goes for other silly things like transubstantiation — I’ve heard that some people take it literally.

          1. ‘Fraid so. The argument exists. The first I heard was when people were challenging the Murfreesboro Tennessee mosque. Wiki: “The plaintiffs’ lawyer spent six days trying to convince the court that Islam should not be considered a religion and that the mosque was not entitled to religious land use zoning regulations “because these are the same people who flew jets into the World Trade Center on 9/11.”” Search terms: murfreesboro mosque islam not religion .

            Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydNfIr2CqI8

        2. The question is already moot, given that only Christianity is the True Religion, and thus other religions don’t even have standing to sue.

          Or something like that… /s

  2. Parents have a right to send their children to the school of their choice. If public assistance is given, it should not be withheld merely because the school is religious. THAT would be religious discrimination. The religious do have rights under the First Amendment, too. I say that as an atheist.

    1. I’m not sure where you get the idea that “parents have a right to send their children to the school of their choice”. If you mean to add “if they can afford it”, then fine. But they don’t have the right to send their kids to, say, a school for the very gifted if the kid isn’t gifted.

      I don’t agree with your “right”, which is not a right but an opinion. And I don’t believe that the government should force me to pay for some other person’s indoctrination.

      1. Well, this case wasn’t about rights in general, but specifically about Maine, where the state DOES give parents in areas without public schools the right (and the funding) to send children to the private school of their choice, but specifically excluded religious schools. The question before the Supreme Court was whether that exclusion was constitutionally permitted, and it decided it wasn’t – it was discrimination against religion.

        So that was really the only question before the court, and it doesn’t seem to me that it was obviously wrongly decided. For a defense of it (by an atheist law professor) see https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/supreme-court-maine-ruling-funding-religious-schools-tamp-culture-wars-rcna34547 .

        It’s also worth noting Somin’s comment, that “Under Tuesday’s decision, the state remains free to restrict vouchers to schools that fail to meet curricular standards that apply equally to both religious and secular schools — even if those standards go against the beliefs of some of them. For example, it might require recipient schools to teach students the theory of evolution despite the fact that some religious groups reject it. It could also bar funding to schools that discriminate on the basis of race, sex and sexual orientation, even though some faith traditions advocate those practices.” It will be interesting to see if Maine does go down that route.

        With regard to the government “forcing” you to pay for it, I don’t think that could be taken seriously as a “right” – I would have loved to be able to say that the government shouldn’t have forced me as a taxpayer to pay for the Iraq War (considerably more expensive and destructive than a few religious schools in Maine), but I doubt that any court of any political leaning would accept that case.

      1. Exactly. The State is forcing its citizens to financially support a religious institution. That amounts to an endorsement of religion, which is explicitly forbidden by the 1st Amendment.

      2. But, if they are so compelled, then religioso taxpayers are no less obligated to pay their share toward non-religious private schools.

    2. The Supreme Court is usurping funds to teach fairy tales. They have the right to practice their religion, but I shouldn’t have to help pay for it. Gets complicated by woke ideology being taught as this is kind of a religion too. Frankly, none of these trends are good for anything.

      1. “Gets complicated by woke ideology being taught as this is kind of a religion too.”

        Good point. The right often fires back that public schools are just another form of indoctrination. This was a baseless charge until recently, where in at least some schools the Right can now cite examples of woke indoctrination that are every bit as nutty as the religious forms.

    3. Under any reasonable view of the separation of church and state, public funds should not be able to be used to proselytize religion.

    4. > Parents have a right to send their children to the school of their choice.

      Absolutely not. If anything, students have the right to attend the school of their choice – assuming that school chooses to admit them. I do not want authorities, whether secular, religious, or parental, determining where students choose to study.

    5. I’m sorry I don’t want my taxes to go to schools that discriminate and don’t allow certain children or teachers to work there. I’m hoping people fight this and no you don’t have the right to take my money to pay for your religious school. I don’t want to pay any private school tuition with my taxes. You want that, you pay for it.

      1. > I’m sorry I don’t want my taxes to go to schools

        I agree with you as far as I’ve quoted above. I support a full separation of school and state. I don’t want to pay for any school, public or private, with taxes.

        1. I don’t have a problem paying taxes for public schools which benefit all kids. I don’t want to pay for schools that exclude kids because they are not straight and white. All three of my kids went through public schools and they are a must.

  3. Can anyone name a religious school that had a shooting?

    I can’t. Yes, I am suggesting that zeal over the 2nd amendment includes simply sending kids to religious schools which are not targets of shootings.

    1. I am trying to understand your comment. Are you saying that one reason parents want to send their kids to religious schools is that such schools are perceived to be safer from school shootings?

      1. That’s the question.

        Of course, one would have to trawl the shootings records to tally the evidence – and of course get the number of students per school – the whole N thing.

        But the shootings in the headlines? Public schools AFAIK.

      1. The question is of likelihood – how many more shootings are in public K-12 schools compared to religious. If there are more, that would be important to know when it comes to guns and the reasons parents take kids out of public school.

          1. Two excerpts might be worth putting here for now :

            “Hyewon found 134 school shootings from 2000 to 2018. Only eight of these occurred in private schools while 122 occurred in public schools.”

            “… around 25 percent of U.S. K‑12 schools are private, while about 10 percent of schooled children attend private schools. In other words, the data suggest that children that go to private schools are disproportionately less likely to experience a school shooting than children in public schools.”

            So I’ll have to think that over later.

    2. It’s only a matter of time; any place that’s perceived to be a soft target is a logical choice for a shooting spree. That and the right vehicle for a killer’s anger (which in the wake of Christian Nationalism’s legal ascendancy should be out there).

  4. SCOTUS’s six-member conservative majority has been signaling all term long that it intends to take an extraordinarily expansive, pro-religion view of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

    Get used to seeing such decisions for the foreseeable future (for those of us of a certain age, for the rest of our lives, or until we outlive 73-year-old Clarence Thomas and 72-year-old Samuel Alito).

    1. Eddie Tabash was warning of exactly this back during Bush Jr’s reign. Probably not the only one, but the only person I was aware of back then that thought this was the most serious threat posed by the RP / conservative Christian alliance. He convinced me back then and now it has come to pass.

    2. Just as SCOTUS redlined the Militia Clause in the Second Amendment, they are in the process of redlining the Establishment Clause in the First.

  5. While I disagree with Prof. Coyne on vouchers, which I think can be used to provide students in poor school districts with better opportunities and encourage competition in academic excellence among schools, this ruling is unconscionable.

    “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”
    — Thomas Jefferson

    1. whoops meant this as a stand-alone comment, not specifically in reply to Patrick, but I’ll just leave it here

      In Canada, several provinces have a non-sectarian public school system and a parallel Catholic school system in the same towns or cities and funded from the same property tax base. If you live in one of those towns, you can enrol your kid in the Catholic school or in the non-sectarian public school down the block. It’s common (but not universal) that the Catholic school is a little bit better overall wrt instruction, but both systems are good (at least in the city where I grew up and in the city where I now live) and both have to adhere to the same provincial government curriculum and standards. You don’t have to be Catholic to send your kids to the Catholic schools, but if you do then they will get catechism and all that nonsense. My friends and I survived it, and most of us were atheists by high school. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in public understanding of science (or other measures of quality) between provinces with and without that Catholic school system. So though I agree it’s a shame to help churches indoctrinate kids, there’s some reason to think the school-based indoctrination (at least in lots of these Catholic schools) maybe isn’t a big concern.

      1. I would just add to Mike’s observations that the reason we do this is rooted in the mists of pre-Confederation Canada when the Catholic minority were routinely persecuted by Orange Order Protestant thugs on the streets and by the patronage system in the civil service that made promotion of Catholics all but impossible. They wanted their own schools to prevent assimilation and loss of heritage, in an era when religion was much more important in public-facing life. This was a bitterly divisive question in early Canada. Parallel Catholic school systems are protected constitutionally in provinces that had had them while they were colonies before 1867.

        We have had many years of practice reconciling public funding for free Catholic schools (in some provinces) with a resolutely secular state with no establishment of religion. Even though the Church of England is the official Faith that literally blesses and legitimizes the British Monarchy, there is no similar religiosity around the Queen in Canada. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does say we are founded under principles that recognize the supremacy of [one] God and the rule of law.

        I can certainly see problems with giving voucher money to religious (or any) private schools that do not hew to a standard state-approved curriculum developed to prepare students for life in a secular world. As to whether it violates church-state separation, the Supreme Court says it doesn’t. What can you do?

  6. Regressive America is not a nice place to live…and this is only the beginning of “religious liberty” running rampant throughout our jurisprudence. SCOTUS will soon be the most hated institution in the land (if it’s not already).

  7. Hooray! HOORAY!! Dark Money® now has yet another way to come out of the darkness and show how beautifully wonderful everything will be with more religiodisy and FREEDUHMB!! HIP HIP!!…. (Need I…\S?)

  8. Taxpayers may now claim the right to sit in the classrooms, examine the religious texts, and make appropriate criticisms and recommendations. If teachers object, remind them who pays their salary.

    That would be nice.

  9. The current Court majority believes that their religious convictions are more important than what the Bill of Rights explicitly states. They must know full well that they are sidestepping and rationalizing the 1st Amendment, but think it is for the greater good of the country to impose their Christian beliefs on everyone.

    This is what the Religious Right believes, and why they want a Constitutional Convention to rewrite the Constitution. They are quite vocal and explicit that the US is and should be a Christian nation, which if they succeed will get narrowed down to a White Evangelical Baptist nation.

    In the service of this goal they are willing to endorse vile and corrupt politicians such as Trump, and to take over the election system.

    This is what religion does, it provides justification for any level of corruption and cruelty in order to force everyone into compliance with its dogma.

  10. “If you think the public schools aren’t good enough for your kid, or are too secular, pay for them to go to “better” schools. If I’m going to pay for improved education, I want it to be through higher taxes to improve PUBLIC schools.”

    In the case of religious schools…yes. And before we had kids of school age, I would have agreed with the rest of this. However, there are several issues that make this more complicated:

    – Public schools in the US are largely funded by local property taxes
    – People of color attend underperforming schools in disproportionate numbers
    – School performance is not always tied to school funding (meaning, some schools are substandard despite adequate funding).

    The combination of these factors often puts children of color in the horrible position of being forced to attend substandard, and even dangerous, traditional public schools. Their parents cannot afford to send them to private schools. And due to mechanism of public school financing (local property taxes), going to a better school automatically means moving to a much better and more expensive neighborhood, so also not feasible due to financial reasons.

    So that leaves trying to improve the existing public school the child is attending, but the problem here is twofold. One, the child needs this to be done immediately, yet such a transformation (if it were even possible) would take at least a few years. And two, some studies have shown that throwing more money at problematic schools does not in of itself solve the problem.

    So what is left for the parents of such a child is something like a tuition-free charter school. While charter schools are technically public schools, I know that many people consider them outside of the public school system and that their existence erodes the traditional public school.

    I can see that argument, but I can also put myself in the position of a parent, more often than not a person of color, who needs to get their kid out of a crummy public school yesterday, and for which a higher performing charter school is their only option.

    1. Charter schools can be done well. There are some very good charter schools in the US. However, there is a very real problem with charter schools in the US and a significant percentage of them are a money making scam by a relatively small number of businesses, each running large numbers of schools, that have gamed the system.

      The general concept of charter schools is not the problem. The problem is in the specific history of the lobbying, regulation (or lack thereof) and predatory business practices associated with charter schools in the US, especially in the past 20 years or so.

      1. Agreed. At the root of the problem in the US is the method of funding schools through local property taxes, which does result in some fairly incredible discrepancies in school funding and quality depending on your address. While poor funding is not the sole reason that some schools suffer, it certainly is a major factor, and reducing the “income inequality” of schools would go a long way to improve traditional public schools overall and reduce the need for charter schools in the first place.

        1. This is not mainly, if at all, a school funding issue. The main problem seems to be that schools in very poor neighborhoods have a high proportion of students with low-education parents and/or parents with serious problems (like substance abuse, including during pregnany), making for a student body with a high proportion of maladjusted children with behavioural issues and/or low IQ, plus few if any students who, due to a stable or highly educated home environment, are a positive academic influence. Internationally, studies show that time actually spent learning/teaching (not dealing with disciplinary problems) and student body characteristics play the greatest role in interschool outcome differences; funding and group sizes, not so much, as long a certain base level is met. In multiethnic countries, ethnicity can be a proxy for academically relevant differences in home environment, leading to a correlation between neighborhood ethnicity and school outcomes.
          Charter school vouchers possibly allow children from disadvantaged neighborhoods to avoid the disruption and slowing down due to very disadvantaged, maladjusted kids that really need special education/early remedial efforts. If that is so, they may be a good thing. I am a very pro public school person and strongly against private schools in other contexts.

    2. “The combination of these factors often puts children of color in the horrible position of being forced to attend substandard, and even dangerous, traditional public schools.”

      Who and/or what makes these schools “substandard, and even dangerous”? The material condition of the schools? The teachers? If not the teachers, who? Certain students? If so, who?

      ” . . . I can also put myself in the position of a parent, more often than not a person of color, who needs to get their kid out of a crummy public school . . . .”

      Again, who and/or what makes a public school “crummy”? The teachers? If not, then who? Of the several causes of a “crummy” school, is it impolitic to include a certain percentage of students (non-intellectually curious, running the halls, disrupting class, bullying) who make life miserable for other students (and staff)?

      There are surely at least a few teachers who would take a pay cut in pay in exchange for not having to deal with such obstreperous, oppositionally-defiant students. As it is, not a few leave the profession on account of such behavior.

  11. What do you mean “argument”?

    I asked questions and suggested a possible factor that still is not settled. I didn’t claim anything with certainty.

    I haven’t read the Cato Institute’s analysis yet.

  12. Big time Disaster. They’re been chip chip chiping away at that wall for a long time now. (sigh)
    Unfortunately Roe v Wade will take up all the oxygen and the media will miss this Maine development even though the decline of Roe is a direct consequence of that chip chip chip. Shit shit shit.

    It is dangerous because people can easily imagine abortion, guns, even free speech. But church/state is harder for people to get their heads around, particularly since the trend is (or they see as) aiding their religion: “More Jay-sus? What could be bad about that?” (sigh. Bang head on keyboard).

    D.A., J.D.
    NYC

  13. I resent children of the well-off who insist school choice should remain a luxury while their parents and peers take it for granted.

    I dare add that religious schools are usually alright. I myself went to a Catholic school where I was never expected to believe any dogmas, the lessons about subjects like evolution or the Reformation were decent and no one was bothered by me being an atheist.

    1. I believe there are huge differences between Catholic schools and evangelical schools. I believe it was Free Inquiry magazine which some twenty years ago took a look at curricula and textbooks used in religious schools. Catholic schools were much the same as public schools with just extra classes in catechism. Evangelical schools on the other hand had religion on every textbook page showing how every subject was part of god’s plan.

      1. That jives with my experience growing up in the Midwest. I went to Catholic schools through high school. For example, for my senior biology class, we used a standard college level textbook I believe by Ken Miller, and we actually learned quite a bit about evolution.

        Beginning in my junior year, I worked part-time for a tutoring agency. We would get kids from evangelical schools, and yes their bespoke textbooks were chocked full of Jesus. Strange alternative US history was taught with the US basically being formed as a Christian theocracy, and alternative biology as well, as in blatant creationism. These kids were literally being brainwashed.

        In hindsight, one can see the seeds being sown for a substantial portion of the US population walking around with a different reality in their heads…

      2. Right on – just check out the creation-based curriculum and texts published by Abeka and Apologia that are used in many evangelical schools.

  14. I guess I’m not fully understanding how vouchers are still public money once they become earmarked for the private use of a taxpayer.

    When I get my income tax refund from the government in cash, I can spend it on religion or anything I want. Ah, you say, that was never public money. It was money the government over-collected from me during the year, in excess of my estimated tax obligation, and is now returning the overage. But in a sense it was public money. The government took it and blended my money with its money. It became mine again only when I filed my income tax return and claimed the refund. If I didn’t file, the government would keep the money.

    So if the government gives me a voucher that represents, theoretically, the money it took from me to educate my children but is giving back to me because I took my kids out of public school, why can’t I spend that on anything I want, including a religious school? Isn’t it my money now? (I know it doesn’t literally come to me as a cheque. I have to direct it somewhere. But there is still a packet of money in the government‘s accounts that has my name on it.). Sure I have to spend the money on school, instead of a new bass boat. The government should make sure the school has qualified teachers and doesn’t teach crazy shit like the earth is flat or my daughter is stained with the Original Sin of racism because she’s white but beyond that, what business is it of the government’s if my choice of school has prayer? Is that really what the Founding Fathers meant when they said no establishment of religion?

    So is a voucher really public funds? Or is it my funds returned to me because I’m not availing myself of the service that the government taxed me to provide?

    I get there is a whole ‘nuther question about opting out of a public program and getting a tax credit instead of leaving the money in and letting the government do what it wants with it.

  15. The Lemon test is still the standard, isn’t it? Then I am unsure. Just the rambling of a newbie but a law is legal if it

    1. Had a secular purpose

    Withdrawing vouchers for religious schools doesn’t. One might argue that those schools practice discrimination and indoctrination and that preventing that has a secular purpose. But then the law should have targeted that instead of religion. Withdrawing vouchers from schools discriminating against LGBT, non-Christian, etc, from schools teaching creationism or ID, etc. A long laundry list.

    2. Neither advanced nor inhibited religion

    That law kinda inhibited religion, no? Giving vouchers on the contrary advances it, ish? Too subtle for me here!

    3. Did not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

    That one passes I think. Actually giving vouchers to Christian schools could be seen as not passing that point 3. But from memory, there was a case of school funding for a Christian magazine, and the decision was that it should be allowed. So I think that point 3 passes either way.

  16. The biggest scandal to my mind is still the fact that we all subsidise religious institutions to the tune of many billions every year, since these money-grubbing groups are tax exempt. How that is not a violation of the establishment clause I will probably never understand.

    1. Like you, many commenters have a misunderstanding of the establishment clause. The establishment clause means the government cannot favor religion. It does not mean the government must favor non-religion. The government is supposed to be neutral, not against religion.

      Here is the first result of establishment clause on Google:

      Quote: “The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.”

      https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/establishment_clause

      Also, contrary to many commenters’ beliefs, there is never a law saying tax-money cannot be used by religious institutions.

      1. But by granting tax-exempt status, the government is massively favouring religion. Neutrality would be taxing all money-making entities equally, or similarly.

        1. I am not sure how the government is favouring religion in this aspect. Most religious schools are not money-making entities. Non-religious private schools can also be non-profit.

          1. Well, obviously I’m not talking about non-profits, but profit-making entities. Did I not make that explicitly clear?
            So, how about taxing the Lakewood Church, to give just one example among countless others?

            1. The IRS does not allow profit-making businesses to be tax-exempt. You are clearly confused about something here. All tax-exempt entities must file financial statements with the IRS which you can view on the IRS’s website to find out by how much their revenue exceeded expenses. (A not-for-profit does not lose that status just because it ended the year in the black.). Without that tax exemption, donors can not deduct their donations off their own income tax.

              1. I’m sorry, churches (in the US) are tax exempt whether they make a profit or not. And many do make enormous profits and pay no (income or property) tax whatsoever. Churches are also not required to report their financial information to the IRS. It is you who are confused.
                See, to name just one source among countless others: https://theconversation.com/amid-calls-to-taxthechurches-what-and-how-much-do-us-religious-organizations-not-pay-the-taxman-164988

            2. I was wrong. Thanks for that. Not being obligated to file financial statements with the IRS in exchange for tax-exempt status is a major defect in the oversight mechanism.

      2. Religion A has a grand church and property, It is exempt from taxation. Religion B meets each Sunday at the home of a member, rotating; beliefs are in modesty, frugality, no hierarchies. No exemption from taxation for religion B. Is religion A favored? unduly?

  17. So if the nonsecular buildings are operating on a tax-free basis, does that mean any tax-paying citizen can stop in to use the loo?

    Of maybe stop in to warm up on a cold day?

    Charge their batteries?

    1. Can you go to any public school to just do these things? I don’t think so. A building uses tax dollar does not mean any tax-paying citizen can just go inside. LoL.

      1. If your kids go there so can you and anyone else using the property., such as during a meeting or athletic competition with spectators who do not have kids at that school.

  18. The religious will be sorry, too, when the state starts telling them what they can and cannot do with their religious education. Which will happen, if a millennia or two of precedent is anything to go by. But not learning from history is exactly what happens when you choose to go to schools where they won’t teach it to you.

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