The U.S. Supreme Court said June 30 that the state of Montana cannot withhold scholarships from families who use the funds to send their children to religious schools. The 5-4 ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue was cheered by religious liberty advocates.
“The Supreme Court made the right decision today,” said Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch.
The case centered on a Montana scholarship program established to help low-income families send their children to private K-12 schools of all kinds. But citing the state’s Blaine Amendment, Montana’s Department of Revenue refused to allow the funds to be used for tuition at religious schools. (Blaine Amendments, which are present in 37 state constitutions including Illinois, prohibit the use of public funds to support religious institutions.)
“These scholarships were not a funding of religion, nor an entanglement of the state with the church,” Moore said after the ruling. “The issue here is whether a state-established scholarship program for private schools could discriminate against parents who chose to send their children to private schools that happen to be religious.”
In the majority opinion, Roberts wrote, “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.”