Amicus Brief: Espinoza v. Mont. Dept. of Revenue
Denouncing state laws that claim to advocate for school choice while discriminating against individuals who favor private schools with religious ties, The Rutherford Institute has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a provision of Montana’s constitution that prohibits students from using scholarship funds to attend religiously-affiliated private schools.
In filing an amicus brief in Espinoza v. Mont. Dept. of Revenue, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that Montana’s discriminatory law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, Institute attorneys point out that the school choice restrictions are the end result of a 150-year-old provision of the state’s constitution known as a “Blaine Amendment,” which was enacted in an era when anti-Catholic prejudice and nativist opposition to immigration from Ireland and Germany were rampant. Thirty-seven states still have versions of the Blaine Amendments in their constitutions.
Attorneys Jason P. Gosselin, John M. Bloor and Joseph P. Connor of Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP, in Philadelphia, Pa., assisted The Rutherford Institute advancing the arguments in Espinoza.
“The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause requires neutrality when it comes to religion,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “In other words, the government may not favor or disfavor one religion over another, nor may it favor or disfavor religion over non-religion, with the reverse holding true, as well. The Constitution establishes a neutral playing field for all viewpoints and requires the government to remain equally impartial. That is the beauty of the Establishment Clause.”