In a huge win for Catholic schools, the Supreme Court sided with 3 Montana families who asked the court to declare that excluding religious schools from student aid programs is unconstitutional. The Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue looked at whether the Montana Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a tax credit scholarship program that allowed students to attend private schools, including religious schools. The decision in this case could have major implications for the use of public dollars to help parents choose a school for their child to attend.

 

In a joint statement, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference committee on Religious Liberty and Bishop Michael Barber, Chair of the Bishops’ Education committee said:

 

“The Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti- Catholicism in America. Blaine Amendments which are in 37 states’ constitutions were the product of nativism and bigotry. They were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion but were expressions of hostility towards the Catholic Church. We are grateful that the Supreme Court has taken an important step that will end this shameful legacy.”

 

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos said: “This decision represents a potential “turning point” in the sad and static history of American education and called on state legislators to “seize” the extraordinary opportunity to expand education choice options. The bigoted Blaine amendments and other restrictions like them are unconstitutional and have blatantly discriminated against students and families based on faith and have forced parents to enroll children in schools which do not match their values.”

 

Proponents of school choice said it was a major triumph in the courts,” Steve Virgadamo, formerly a Director with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education and currently Executive Vice President of Bursari.com said: “School Choice is a civil rights issue and the weight that this decision carries is immense. It is a victory for student achievement, parental control, and educational opportunities for the poor and marginalized.”

 

Attorney General William Barr said: “That because of the SCOTUS ruling in the Espinoza Case, a state may no longer disqualify religious schools from scholarships or other programs solely because they are religious.”

 

The loss of Catholic schools would be an American tragedy. It would set back opportunities for generations of low income and inner-city neighborhoods. We cannot accept this for America’s children.  The presence of diverse educational options in our country – a thriving government-sponsored school system and a strong network of independent schools, including religious schools – has always been a source of American vitality.  The Supreme Court decision is indeed monumental, and in the 2020-2021 Covid world, there is still much more to be done to protect the educational opportunities for parents, but Hope Springs Eternal.