For Immediate Release
June 30, 2020
U.S. Supreme Court Espinoza Decision a Win for Children
Family Policy Alliance praised the decision as an example of government working for families
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado—In today’s Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the U.S. Supreme Court supported the freedom of parents to choose the best education for their children, including education in private, faith-based schools. Family Policy Alliance praised the decision as a win for parents, religious freedom, and—most importantly—for children.
Autumn Leva, Vice President of Strategy for Family Policy Alliance, explained why the decision is a win: “We believe that children win when their parents can choose the best education for each child, and that no government should place limitations on a child’s future because of her zip code or her family’s income.”
In 2015, the state of Montana passed into law a tax-credit scholarship program designed to help low-income families, especially single mothers, send their children to the best schools for them—including private faith-based schools. The law was originally authored by Montana Family Foundation.
Then the Montana Department of Revenue issued a rule declaring that children receiving the scholarships could not use them at faith-based schools. Three mothers who believed their children would be better off at faith-based schools filed a lawsuit in response.
Sadly, the Montana Supreme Court issued an opinion in 2018, stating that it believed Montana’s Constitution allows the state government to discriminate against faith-based schools based on a provision historically used to prohibit government funds from going to faith-based schools (also known as a “Blaine Amendment”), and it struck down Montana’s good scholarship program.
Many states have discriminatory “Blaine Amendments” in their Constitutions. These Amendments arose in the 1870’s as a way to keep Catholic influence out of the largely Protestant public schools during a time of high anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant bias in America. Blaine Amendments are old dinosaurs in the law based on interdenominational conflicts that should go extinct.
As the conflict over Montana’s scholarship program reached the Supreme Court, Jeff Laszloffy, who serves as President of the Montana Family Foundation representing family values in the state, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case defending the law on behalf of Montana’s families.
Family Policy Alliance and the state family policy councils also rallied state lawmakers to file another friend-of-the-court brief in the case, showing a strong state support for advancing school choice. Many state lawmakers who are alumni of Family Policy Foundation’s Statesmen Academy signed onto this brief. Justice Alito referenced both briefs by Montana Family Foundation and the state lawmakers in his concurring opinion supporting education choice for families.
Jeff Laszloffy said that the decision today helps more children than just those in Montana: “This decision was a huge victory for Montana kids and clears the way for Montana to join 42 other states that allow students the freedom to choose a school that fits them best.”
President Trump, who supports school choice for children as a civil rights issue, also issued a statement today in support of the Court’s decision, saying “no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.”
The Supreme Court declared that families in Montana should be free to choose the education that best suits their children—including in faith-based schools, that the old Blaine Amendment used to invalidate the scholarship program is bigoted and discriminatory, and that faith-based schools can’t be disqualified from a school choice program just because they are faith-based.
Leva concluded: “Today’s decision is a celebration of how children are the real winners when elected leaders at all levels and every branch of government use the power given to them by the people to work for the people and the values we hold dear.”
Robert Noland, (719) 308-2822, Media@FamilyPolicyAlliance.com
Family Policy Alliance works to advance biblical citizenship and promote good public policy that protects religious freedom, families, and life.