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Montana Case On Tax Credits For Religious Schools Headed To U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Montana case—whether the state can exclude religious schools from a tax credit program that gives scholarships to parents for private school tuition payments.

Three families with children attending Kalispell's Stillwater Christian School sued Montana in 2016, arguing its decision to exclude private religious schools from the program was discriminatory.

The state says allowing religious schools to participate would violate a provision in Montana’s Constitution known as the “Blaine Amendment,” which prohibits state money from flowing to religious institutions. The Montana Supreme Court sided with that argument last year.

Eric Feaver, president of the state employee and teachers' union, said a reversal of that decision would threaten public schools and the state’s constitution.

“I’m very sorry that we now find ourselves in a position where we have to defend the plain language of our constitution," he said.

Attorney Erica Smith, who works with the Virginia-based Institute for Justices, said Blaine amendments were implicated in several states to discriminate against Catholics.

“It’s been affecting thousands of kids across the country for decades," she said. "Every family should be able to guide the education of their children, regardless of income, and that’s what this case is all about.”

The court’s decision will likely to be handed down next year.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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