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Supreme Court says religious schools can't be excluded from scholarship programs for private schools

June 30, 2020
Ruling is expected to open the door to more public funding of religious education.

 “A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

[Read the full opinion (U.S. Supreme Court)]

The case involved a Montana program enacted in 2015 “to provide parental and student choice in education.” The program was financed by private contributions eligible for tax credits, and it provided scholarships to students in private schools.

Soon after the program started, a state agency said students attending religious schools were not eligible in light of a provision of the state’s Constitution that bars the use of government money for “any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect or denomination.”

Three mothers with children at Stillwater Christian School, in Kalispell, Mont., sued, saying that provision of the state Constitution violated the First Amendment.

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