The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments in a private school voucher case on April 8. Americans United and allies previously submitted a brief in the case urging the court to rule that the state was right to stop taxpayer money from funding religious education through a tax-credit voucher scheme.
Montana’s Department of Revenue did not allow religious schools to participate in the state’s tuition tax credit program because state officials wanted to honor Montana’s Constitution, which has a clause that protects freedom of conscience of Montana residents by ensuring that tax revenues can’t be diverted to fund religion. Some residents didn’t like that and sued.
“We have clear separation of church and state that public appropriations cannot be used for religious institutions,” department spokeswoman Mary Ann Dunwell told the Associated Press.
AU and its allies argued that the state’s Department of Revenue was correct to exclude religious education from the program and urged the state’s higher court to reach the same conclusion in the Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue case.
“Montana students and their parents certainly have a fundamental right to choose a religious education, but not at the state’s expense,” the brief reads. “Montana’s government is expressly barred from providing ‘direct or indirect’ aid for religious education.”