Supreme Court opens door to state funding for religious schools

In a ruling that will open the door to more public funding for religious education, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of parents in Montana seeking to use a state scholarship program to send their children to religious schools.

The court said that a Montana tax credit program that directed money to private schools could not exclude religious schools.

The 5-4 ruling was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the court’s four conservative justices.

“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 in the majority opinion.

Tuesday’s opinion is a huge win for supporters of school choice programs, a hallmark of the Trump administration, and it will also encourage other states to push for similar programs.

The ruling comes as the supporters of religious liberty, including the Trump administration, have hoped the court’s solidified conservative majority would emphasize that the Constitution’s Free Exercise clause requires neutrality toward religion. Three low income mothers had sought to use the funds from a state initiative toward their kids’ religious education.

Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court’s liberal members, dissented, writing: “If, for 250 years, we have drawn a line at forcing taxpayers to pay the salaries of those who teach their faith from the pulpit, I do not see how we can today require Montana to adopt a different view respecting those who teach it in the classroom.”

This story is breaking and will be updated.