Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled in late December that the state government may give public funds to private schools to reimburse them for the costs of various state-mandated services.

Opponents asserted that the funding violates an amendment that was added to the Michigan Constitution in 1970 that bars tax funding of private (including religious) education. The high court, however, held that the funding is permissible because it is a form of reimbursement, not direct aid.

Justice Stephen Markman asserted that the appropriation covered “health, safety, and welfare” mandates that private schools must meet. The funding, he wrote, “merely mitigate[s] the effect of burdens imposed in the first place by the state for the health, safety, and welfare of nonpublic-school students,” reported the Detroit News.

The vote was 3-3 because one justice had recused himself. The tie vote means that a lower-court opinion that upheld the aid will stand.

The dissenting justices held that the funding violated the state constitution. “For a nonpublic school, or any other organization in Michigan, complying with general health, safety and welfare laws is just a cost of doing business,” wrote Justice Megan Cavanagh for the dissenters.

Michigan voters in 1970 approved a constitutional amendment to bar tax aid to religious institutions. It passed 57-43 percent. In 1978 and 2000, voters rejected ballot measures to implement voucher plans in the state. (Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiaid v. State of Michigan)

BREAKING NEWS

Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.


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