OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today commended the U.S. Supreme Court for reversing a Montana Supreme Court decision that held Montana's school-choice scholarship program had to be eliminated because it allowed parents and their children the option of using scholarships at private religious schools.
The First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court emphasized in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, "condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them."
“This landmark ruling is a major victory for school choice and religious liberty,” Attorney General Hunter said. “The Constitution is clear: religious discrimination like this is un-American and unacceptable, and I am encouraged to see the court yet again enforce this principle. This decision will ensure that school-choice programs nationwide continue to provide families and their children with the opportunity to seek a quality education of their choosing -- religious or otherwise. My colleagues and I are very pleased with today’s opinion, and applaud the justices who voted to reinstate this important program.”
In September, the attorney general led a coalition of 18 state attorneys general and governors in a brief encouraging the justices to reverse the Montana case on First Amendment grounds.
The Montana Supreme Court treated religious adherents as "pariah[s]," the attorney general argued, and its hostility endangered school-choice programs and religious liberty nationwide.
The U.S. Supreme Court cited half a dozen pages of the attorney general’s brief favorably in its majority opinion to refute the argument that religious discrimination of this sort is a "historic and substantial" tradition among the states. To the contrary, the court observed, "many States today—including those with no-aid provisions—provide support to religious schools through vouchers, scholarships, tax credits, and other measures."
Justice Alito also cited the attorney general's brief in his concurrence explaining the history of religious bigotry that underlies attempts to prevent religious people and institutions from participating in government programs.