The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, sided with the Espinoza family of Montana in a ruling that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that offer scholarships to students who may attend private schools.

Jeff Lazloffy, President of the Montana Family Foundation said the decision changes the entire landscape for school funding.

“The United States Supreme Court this morning ruled in the case of Espinoza v the Montana Department of Revenue,” said Lazloffy. “What this case did was wrap up an 11 year process here at the Montana Family Foundation. It began as an effort to bring school choice to Montana, and concluded with a decision so broadly written by the Court that is going to remove religiously discriminatory language from 37 state constitutions, including Montana.”

Lazloffy said the contention was over the Blaine Amendment that stated that no public dollars could ever be used for religious education.

“Montana has what is called a ‘super Blaine’ amendment, in that not only does it say that state dollars may not be used to fund private religious schools, it says that those dollars may not be used either directly or indirectly,” he said.

With the decision, Lazloffy said the scholarship tax credit that began the court case has now been resurrected.

“It is resurrected after today with the implementation of this Supreme Court decision,” he said. “Basically, the United States Supreme Court rejected every single argument that was placed before it, both by the Montana Supreme Court and the Montana Department of Revenue.”

Reaction to the court’s decision came swiftly from the Montana Federation of Public Employees and its new President Amanda Curtis.
“It’s a really sad day for public education, not just in Montana but in America,” said Curtis. “This is a landmark case that will have a ripple effect in the public education system, but also for state constitutions across the U.S. I’m disappointed that both Montana and over 30 other states have just basically had our state constitutions nullified by activist judges using a red herring argument of bigotry, when in fact, the legislators who drafted our state constitutions were themselves members of the clergy.”

Curtis said her organization will marshal its forces behind one clause of the Montana Constitution to fight Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision.

“Article V Section 11 states right in our Montana Constitution: ‘No appropriation shall be made for religious, charitable, industrial, educational, or benevolent purposes to any private individual, association or corporation not under control of the state.’ “That’s pretty clear language, and so we’re going to move forward in defending the state’s constitution as we have always done.”

In a press release, Lazloffy wrote:

'We expect that, as a result of today’s decision, many more school choice bills will be introduced in the next session of the Montana legislature.  When options in education become numerous, kids win, parents win and taxpayers win.'

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