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What Supreme Court’s Montana Decision Says About Its Thinking On Church And State




The U.S. Supreme Court building stands  on June 25, 2020 in Washington, DC.
The U.S. Supreme Court building stands on June 25, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it easier for religious schools to obtain public funds, upholding a Montana scholarship program that allows state tax credits for private schooling.

The court’s 5-4 ruling, with conservatives in the majority, came in a dispute over a Montana scholarship program for private K-12 education that also makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits.

The Legislature created the tax credit in 2015 for contributions made to certain scholarship programs for private education. The state’s highest court had struck down the tax credit as a violation of the Montana constitution's ban on state aid to religious schools. The scholarships can be used at both secular and religious schools, but almost all the recipients attend religious schools. 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion that said the state ruling violates the religious freedom of parents who want the scholarships to help pay for their children's private education. “A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” Roberts wrote.

AirTalk looks at the decision and what it signals about the High Court’s thinking on the separation of church and state.

With files from the Associated Press

Guest:

Kimberly Robinson, U.S. Supreme Court reporter for Bloomberg Law and co-host of Bloomberg Law’s podcast “Cases and Controversies”; she tweets @KimberlyRobinsn