Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: June 28, 2019
  • Case #: 18-1195
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 393 Mont. 446 (2018)
  • Full Text Opinion

Does it violate the Religion Clauses or Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution to invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student- aid program simply because the program affords students the choice of attending religious schools

Petitioners are parents of school aged children in the state of Montana. After the Montana legislature enacted a tax credit for those who donate to a K-12 scholarship program, Respondent enacted an administrative rule prohibiting students to use the scholarships to attend schools owned by religious organizations. Petitioners brought suit, and the trial court issued an injunction against enforcement of the administrative rule. Respondents appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, which subsequently invalidated the entire scholarship program. The court reasoned that while exclusion of religious educational institutions from state programs was permissible, the religious institutions could not be severed from the state program due to the nature of the program itself. On appeal, Petitioner notes that although the United State Supreme Court decision in Locke v. Davey 540 U.S. 712 (2004), addressed religious exclusions in an institutional-aid program, it did not address student-aid programs. Due to the narrow holding in Locke, courts have subsequently disagreed as to how the religious exclusion should apply to broader cases. Petitioner urges the Court to determine whether the Free Exercise, Establishment, or Equal Protection Clauses are violated by such exclusions and therefore cease the spilt amongst jurisdictions. The issue is one of great importance that repeatedly occurs and “affects thousands of families across the country.”

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