The Supreme Court will soon hear oral arguments on a case with potentially tremendous implications for religious liberty and school choice. The lawsuit, brought in part by a single mother trying to support her two children in parochial school, seeks to invalidate the notorious “Blaine Amendments” that prohibit religious schools from receiving taxpayer dollars.
19th century U.S. Congressman James Blaine promoted the amendments that bear his name during the height of anti-Catholic xenophobia. Today, 38 state constitutions still include some form of a Blaine Amendment. Once again, Massachusetts “led the way” by being the first to adopt this anti-religious law. To top it off, the Commonwealth’s version of the amendment is “generally considered the most restrictive in the country.”
These laws have now been brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in an appeal from plaintiffs in the state of Montana. When a 2015 law established a new tax credit policy, the Montana Department of Revenue decided to exclude those who donate to religious schools from receiving the tax credit. A group of plaintiffs sued the state over the policy, claiming it violated their right to freely exercise their religion.
The outcome of this case will have significant implications around the country as the decision should finally put to rest the “long-standing split on whether barring religious options from student-aid programs violates the federal Religion and Equal Protection Clauses.”
Fortunately, some of the best minds in the country are working on the case, and you have an opportunity to learn more about Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue right here in Cambridge. Our friends at the Pioneer Institute, along with the Vice Chair of MFI’s board, Mike Gilleran, are hosting a special briefing on the landmark case this Thursday from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Harvard University. You can register for the event here. This is a unique opportunity to learn more about the judicial process, the details of the case, and its wide implications for religious liberty and school choice in America. MFI will closely follow the case and keep you updated.