A sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice quoted Rob Natelson in a case involving education and the state of Montana, a fact that is considered a great honor.

That’s exactly what happened in Tuesday’s Espinoza v Montana Department of Revenue decision that struck down a long standing ban on the use of public funds for private or religious schools.

Former UM Law Professor and current Constitutional Fellow at the Independence Institute in Denver, Rob Natelson, has long been a critic of how the state of Montana funds it’s school systems.

“We identified wording within the Montana Constitution that the Constitution prohibits aid to ‘sectarian’ schools,” said Natelson. A lot of people think that just means religious schools, and the U.S. Supreme Court held that this particular provision did discriminate unconstitutionally against religious schools.”

Natelson described the contribution he and the Independence Institute brought to the U.S. Supreme Court through its Amicus briefs.

“One of the things we brought to this case was historical documentation that this term ‘sectarian’ didn’t just mean ‘religious’, but that this term ‘sectarian’ was actually a way that the state could discriminate against certain religions,” he said.
Natelson unveiled Justice Samuel Alito’s reference to the Independence Institute’s brief to the court.

“Justice Alito in his concurring opinion cited an article that I had written by name,” he said. “He also cited on two occasions the Independence Institute’s brief, of which I was the principal author. It is a huge victory. I am very happy about it because of my personal involvement, but even more important that this is a great day for religious liberty in America.”

Natelson exulted in stating that after many years, parents in Montana will have more choices in educating their children, despite what he called the opposition of the state teacher’s union.

“The Montana teacher’s union has been standing athwart healthy competition for decades,” he said. “They’ve been trying to prevent any state recognition of the fact that there are alternatives to the public school system. Well, I’ve been arguing and others have been arguing for many years that they are wrong, that they are dead wrong. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that the Montana teachers union is in fact dead wrong. School choice, true school choice is coming to Montana.”