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SCOTUS Embraces Public Financing of Religious Schools

SCOTUS Embraces Public Financing of Religious Schools

The Supreme Court took one step closer to erasing the line between church and state when it threw out a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s practice of using tax credits to help students attend private and religious schools.  The 5-4 ruling in he combined cases of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, et al and Garriott v. Winn, et al split along ideological lines signaling clear approval of educational vouchers by the conservative majority.

The law at issue allows Arizonans to get a dollar-for-dollar credit on what they owe the state in income taxes for money they donate to organizations that provide scholarships for private and parochial schools.  According to reports, in the 2009 tax year Arizonans diverted more than $50.8 million to the scholarship organization–money that would otherwise go into the state’s public school system.

But this case is significant for more than just its embrace of public financing of private religious education.  It is significant because the conservative majority threw the case out on the ground that the challengers, as taxpayers, did not have proper standing to sue, marking a significant blow to the constitutional practice of taxpayer standing.

The whole premise of taxpayer standing is that taxpayers have a right to challenge government action–in this case government programs providing indirect state subsidies for religion.  In the majority’s decision Justice Kennedy drew a clear line–taxpayer standing exists really only to challenge direct government spending, not indirect subsidies as is the case in Arizona.

Writing for the minority, Justice Kagan took this distinction head-on, arguing that the majority had manufactured this difference.  Taxpayers pick up the cost in either system, Kagan wrote.  According to the majority’s logic, a taxpayer could then sue to challenge a tax subsidy but not a tax break, despite the fact that both represent tax expenditures.

But if you take that differentiation, and you place it in the context of Justice Kennedy’s emphasis on keeping access to the federal courts limited it becomes even clearer that what the conservative majority was truly concerned with was protecting the federal courts, and thusly the government, from having to answer to the taxpayer.

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photo courtesy of Michael 1952 via Flickr

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104 comments

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7:32PM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

Thank you for info.

7:31PM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

Thank you for info.

3:52PM PDT on Apr 14, 2011

I am so done with the religious take over, the spartan way the republicans want the citizens to live in while they live in ultra wealth. Please do not vote for any more republicans to be in office.
Stop the take over of the highest courts.
And let the American people have a real Preamble, bill of rights and constitution.

6:07AM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

SCOTUS needs a compleate overhaul much like the rest of our govermeant the religios right have used the current economic crise to fauther their exstreamist adgenda in every way posibable,the govermeant doesn't have any right to tell me what religion to practice or teach my kids nor where to attend school if they don't practice the approved one. No Thanks SCOTUS back off

12:50PM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

Roy, basically under G.W. Bush we lived under a dictatorship. This is the next step in trying to make America a theocracy, their next goal. Huckabee stated last week that all Americans should be indoctrinated into a certain "religion" at gun point. How's that for you and after it was aired, many of those clips from his speech disappeared that showed that part of his speech. Nice. This is another way to try to force us into the one world religion they dream about.

No position of employment for a government job should be for life. Some of these people are so old they can no longer walk and have had 2 people stand them up and literally walk them into court to do their job when it is obvious they don't even know what questions are asked of them. And if these selected SCOTUS members do have mental decline, they are not capable of doing the job required of them. No one over 15 should be in a position where the very lives of all Americans are can be harmed by the decisions of the incompetent. And if they show any signs of mental confusion, like John McCain on a minute by minute contradiction we have seen him display so often, they need to be thoroughly examined by an outside, no conflict of interest medical experts and if any early signs of mental anomaly is shown, they need to receive their walking papers, no exceptions.

2:55AM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

Since many religious schools manage to get get the 3 Rs across to students cheaper per student than public schools do, the taxpayers might actually be getting a bargain having many k-12 students diverted to religious schools instead of public schools. I feel that skills, especially 3 Rs are more important than content. If a child can get the 3 Rs from a school and figure out which parts of the content he/she was forced to memorize and regurgitate on test actually make sense and which need to be rethought, then it doesn't matter what content the child was forced to memorize and regurgitate on tests.

8:50PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

It's a shame that America being of mixed descent can't find a way to get along. We can't cause of greedy agendas from different places. I'd like to arrest the 5 in the halls of the senate again protesting abortions via planned parenthood. Are they from these religious schools taught this misinformation? I believe so. There is much to think about; conspiracies to over throw the government, replacing it with a nazi dictatorship, a chipped and points system to created by financial droughts on purpose, to impliment the forementioned, instill a king like they wanted to do with bush with the evangelical blessings or what? They are fighting hard to bring down america as we know it under all kinds of lies and schemes. What do we really want? Do we want to live like a highly advanced civilization honoring and respecting all races and cultures with decent quality of life or are we warring barbarians who can't think beyond our face? The answer is up to the country. We can let these tea partiers/trepublicans dictate to us or get them out of office once and for all. We all here know something is wrong. Yet we act like we are in shock and denial when it comes to this tea party and the republicans by keep giving them space to do more damage. This is the party who gave us bush and the iraq war and a near depression. Plus before he left he took our money and demanded it. Who did he give that money to. We don't know. zthe same buzzards are in our face talking smack again.

7:20PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Public Education is targeted for elimination. That is what this is about.

Public school money goes to the faith schools, often located in more affluent suburbs. What happens at a school like mine? I teach poor black kids. They are nice kids, they did not ask to be poor, and they have hopes and dreams just like anyone. What about them?

Already we don't have textbooks. One in four kids is special needs. What happens to our school? We are facing closing. A privately run charter using district funding will be using the building we are in. They are gearing towards AP classes and lotteries. High achieving kids. Not kids like the ones who go there now. I wonder where MY students are supposed to go.....oh, that's right, there is funding for new prisons instead of schools........so that's where......

I literally cry for these kids.

2:24PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

What the He--! I have my beliefs too, but I'm not for the government being in my beliefs or for my beliefs getting into my government. Stay out of our bedrooms and our places of worship and those areas that are associated with such!

9:33AM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

this is just wrong - bet many won't like to support Muslim school.

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