In December, Montana’s Supreme Court became the first state supreme court in the country to strike down a tax-credit scholarship program. The court ruled 5–2 that the program violates the Montana Constitution’s Blaine Amendment, reversing IJ’s lower court victory in the process.
But there’s a big silver lining in this loss: The decision positions IJ to bring the constitutionality of Blaine Amendments before the U.S. Supreme Court, an opportunity we have worked long and hard to achieve.
Blaine Amendments are state constitutional provisions that prohibit public funds from aiding religious schools. Even though educational choice aids families, not schools, courts have used Blaine Amendments to strike down programs that include religious options.
There are two problems with this. First, limiting children to just secular educational options violates families’ rights to religious liberty. The U.S. Supreme Court has been clear that the government cannot force individuals to choose between following their religious beliefs and participating in a public program.
Second, limiting educational options defeats the whole purpose of choice programs: allowing families to choose the best education for their children. Religious schools are an important option, and even nonreligious families may prefer them—whether because of their academics, discipline, or close-knit communities. Parents, not the government, know what their children need.
In March, IJ filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to take the case. We have been battling Blaine Amendments for almost 30 years, and we will keep fighting until we eliminate these barriers to educational opportunity once and for all.