Apr 15, 1998

Parents and taxpayers in a Pennsylvania public school district today filed a lawsuit challenging a local voucher program paying for tuition at religious and other private schools.

The legal challenge, filed in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, charges that a voucher program approved in March by the Southeast Delco School Board violates state law and the Pennsylvania Constitution. The suburban Philadelphia school board, which is dominated by parochial school advocates, adopted the scheme by a 7-0 vote, despite complaints that the plan runs afoul of church-state separation and the state public school code.

Article III, Sec. 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides, "No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school." Other constitutional provisions also forbid the use of public funds for religion.

The Giacomucci v. Southeast Delco School District lawsuit is being sponsored by a broad coalition of groups that support public education and constitutional liberties. The coalition includes Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Public Education Coalition to Oppose Tuition Vouchers and 13 other organizations.

Said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, "Taxpayers should never be forced to pay for religious indoctrination. This plan clearly violates the separation of church and state, and I am confident that the courts will strike it down."

Americans United, a Washington, D.C.-based religious liberty watchdog group, is providing legal assistance in court conflicts over school vouchers in Wisconsin, Ohio and Vermont.