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Supreme Court ruling emboldens school-choice advocates

School-choice advocates are claiming a victory after the Supreme Court sided a week with a Missouri church, judgment that public financing could be used to resurface its playground.  

Officials such as Darrell Allison, founding president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, cheered the 7-2 decision.  

“I really do think it lays down a mark,” Allison said. Education, I believe we all can agree, it is vitally important within our nation. We must have more of an open-mindedness since it pertains to who could be participating in that.

The Supreme Court ruled June 26 the Trinity Lutheran Church could get public money, from a grant, to rubberize the face of its own park.   School-choice supporters see hope for their cause because they believe the decision undermines so-called Blaine Amendments decades-old state laws that bar direct government aid to institutions with a religious affiliation.  


The Blaine Amendments were a series of amendments Which Were enacted in the 19th century since anti-Catholic steps, said Randy Barnett, a professor at Georgetown Law and the Director of Georgetown Center for the Constitution. Even the Protestants dominated the public schools, and they did not like the idea of the Catholics setting up their own school program, so they came up with these amendments that banned the expenditures of any government cash on religious institutions.  

Years after, the legislation are seen as a significant barrier to college choice, as they are often used to prevent families from utilizing public scholarship funds to send their children to a religious school, via a school voucher program.

According to Barnett, its one of the principle arguments those opposed to school choice can create.

Missouri is one of 38 states with a Blaine Amendment from the state constitution. Since 2015,  at least three countries have faced legal challenges to those amendments: Colorado, Montana and Missouri.

1 potential complication for school-choice recommends, however, is a footnote from Chief Justice John Roberts  at the Supreme Court’s Trinity Lutheran Church judgment. To some, it ensures the decision only impacts the situation from Missouri.

Roberts wrote, This situation involves express discrimination based on religious identity connected to playground resurfacing.   We do not address religious uses of financing or other forms of discrimination .”

Critics of voucher programs state Roberts footnote is one reason this judgment is narrow, and parties among those who favor school choice are premature.

In a statement, the president of one of the biggest teachers unions said the court avoided the larger constitutional issue.

“This choice was about providing a generally available benefit to a church which was not going to be used for religious purposes and wouldn’t violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said. That is consistent with all the Blaine Amendment, that was not meant to stop religious organizations from receiving funding for uses that are available to all and do not promote religion or discriminate. Therefore, the Supreme Court’s Trinity choice can’t be read as opening the door for countries to promote faith or enlarge coupons .”  

But after the court sided with Trinity Lutheran Church, the justices sent yet another case back to the lower courts.  

In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court said a voucher program that allowed parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private, potentially religious schools, was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court claims the Colorado court needs to examine the situation again.  

Barnett said thats a legal triumph for school-choice advocates, since it indicates the Supreme Court  seems to think [the Missouri and Colorado case] are connected.

This is a very important ruling because it is the first time that the Blaine Amendments are called into question from the U.S. Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds. And because of this, school-choice proponents are going to have a much easier road in legislatures across the nation since they push for alternative legislation to be passed, ” Barnett said.

Fox News Jenny Buchholz contributed to this report.  


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