Should parents be allowed to use taxpayers’ funds to send their kids to religious schools?
The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to hear arguments in a school-choice case out of Colorado.
The Douglas County School District created a tax-funded scholarship program that would have allowed parents to send their children to government or private (including religious) schools. The program’s opponents sued the district, citing a state constitutional provision that barred government funding for religious schools. A district court sided with the plaintiffs, but an appeals court reversed the decision. The state’s highest overruled the appeals court; however, its ruling went further.
“Worse, [the Colorado Supreme Court] ruled that applying Colorado’s Blaine amendment to bar religious options from the scholarship program is permissible under the U.S. Constitution,” the Institute for Justice’s Michael Bindas wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “The same Constitution that is supposed to guarantee free exercise of religion and equal protection of the laws.”
Bindas wrote that such rulings stem from a time when government schools were “overtly religious and, invariably, Protestant,” and openly opposed Roman Catholicism. They began creating their own schools. “That did not sit well with the Protestant majority, and a virulent anti-Catholic nativism erupted.”
Several states amended their constitutions to reflect this bias, Bindas contended. Protestant and Catholics are in the same boat now, as atheists appeal to a separation-between-church-and-state doctrine that’s not in the Constitution.
“Those today who rely on these sordid provisions disclaim any anti-Catholic animus or hostility toward religion. They insist they are merely trying to maintain a ‘strict separation’ between church and state…That makes no sense. The Douglas County scholarship program does not provide aid to religious schools or any schools. It provides aid to Douglas County students. Not a penny of that money can flow to any school—religious or not—without the private choice of parents. That independent choice breaks any link between church and state.”