The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of parents in Montana seeking scholarship money to send their children to religious schools. In a 5-4 ruling, the court ruled that a state scholarship program funded by tax credit could not exclude religious schools.
The ruling is expected to pave the way for more funding for religious education.
“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,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.
Roberts — who joined fellow conservatives in the majority opinion — added that the court has “repeatedly held that the Establishment Clause is not offended when religious observers and organizations benefit from neutral government programs.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by the court’s other Democratic appointees, dissented.
“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,” she wrote.
On Twitter, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called the ruling a “historic victory for America’s students.”
“Today’s landmark SCOTUS decision in Espinoza v. Montana is a huge victory for students and parents across America. Religious discrimination is dead,” she wrote. “All states need to seize this extraordinary opportunity to expand all education options at all schools to every single student.”
Religious groups also celebrated the ruling. In a statement, Brian Burch, the president of Catholic Vote, said the ruling was “long overdue victory for American families and a defeat for anti-Catholic bigotry.”
Opponents of the ruling include American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who called the court’s decision “a seismic shock that threatens both public education and religious liberty.”
“Never in more than two centuries of American history has the free exercise clause of the First Amendment been wielded as a weapon to defund and dismantle public education,” Weingarten said.