Religious-School Scholarships Draw U.S. Supreme Court Review

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court added a new religion case to the calendar for its next term, agreeing to rule on a Montana tax-credit program that generates scholarship money for students who attend private schools.

The high court on Friday agreed to hear arguments from three parents who have used money from the program to send their children to a Christian school.

The Montana Supreme Court struck down the program as violating a state constitutional provision that bars aid to religious schools. The parents say that ruling violates the U.S. Constitution.

Montana officials say the state court was right to invalidate the entire program if any of the money would go to religious schools. The state Department of Revenue says more than 90% of the scholarships go to students attending religious schools.

The 2015 scholarship program gives individuals and corporations a tax credit for contributing up to $150 to an organization that funds scholarships to help needy students attend private schools.

The only organization formed under the law, Blue Sky Scholarships, supports just one non-religious school along with 12 religious schools, the state says. Big Sky awarded 54 scholarships during the most recent school year, totaling $27,000.

The parents sued after the Department of Revenue issued a rule that barred use of scholarship money at religious schools. A trial judge blocked the rule before the Montana Supreme Court threw out the entire program.

The case is Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, 18-1195.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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