6 July 2020
The US Supreme Court voted on 30 June to quash a century-old legal clause that blocked public aid from going to religious schools in Montana.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that the state’s 1889 Blaine Amendment relating to funding for religious institutions “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination” was unfair.
The case was brought by three mothers after they were prevented from using a $150 (£120;€130) tax credit towards tuition at a Christian school in Montana by revenue officials, who said it was barred under the state’s constitution.
Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Roberts, said the amendment violated the “free exercise” clause of the US Constitution by targeting religious schools. He cited an earlier court decision in which the justices held that the state of Missouri could not deny a church school’s application for a programme that paid to resurface playgrounds with recycled tyres simply because it was religious.
The latest verdict was welcomed by the Centre for Education Reform, which hailed it as “an extraordinary victory for student achievement, parental control, quality in educational opportunities and First Amendment rights”.
Earlier in June, campaigners claimed another breakthrough for religious liberty when Ohio state signed into law the Student Religious Liberties Act, restoring students’ rights to express their faith in their public school homework.