Nov 09, 1998

The Supreme Court's decision not to review Wisconsin's school voucher program is disappointing but sets no nationwide precedent, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"Sooner or later," said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, "the Supreme Court will have to deal with the issue of vouchers. The justices took a pass today, but they cannot dodge the issue forever.

"This action by the court means only that Milwaukee's program may proceed," Lynn continued. "It does not amount to a high court blessing of tax aid to religious schools."

Americans United and a coalition of other groups sponsored the challenge to the "Milwaukee Parental Choice Program" and had asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision upholding the program.

"The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case is disappointing but not that surprising," said AU's Lynn. "After all, the high court accepts less then 2 percent of all cases appealed to it."

Legal cases dealing with school vouchers are pending in Ohio, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Maine. In addition, a religious school tax break scheme is pending before the state supreme court in Arizona.

AU's Lynn said one of those cases will undoubtedly give the court an opportunity to address this issue in the future.

Lynn said Americans United remains convinced that vouchers are unconstitutional. He noted that state and federal courts have routinely rejected voucher aid to church schools.

"Vouchers are nothing more than a tax to pay for religion," he said. "American taxpayers should never be forced to support religious instruction."