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Supreme Court hands down a win for school choice, religious freedom

It is the saddest fact of modern American politics: What the Supreme Court giveth, the Supreme Court can taketh away. And vice versa, of course.

In recent days, conservatives were frustrated by the nation’s high court for decisions on LGBTQ rights in the workplace, a lack of clarity on the Second Amendment and restrictions on abortion. Those on the right know they’re in trouble when The New York Times and The Washington Post are praising the Republican-majority court.

Yet conservatives can claim some wins as the court’s 2019-20 term ends, and a big one came in a case involving school choice.

On Tuesday, the court, by a 5-4 majority, upheld a 2015 Montana law that permits dollar-for-dollar tax credits for donors who contribute to a scholarship program that can be tapped by families to cover tuition costs at religious schools.

After the law took effect, the state restricted the money from flowing to religious schools, which reportedly comprise 70 percent of the state’s private academies. Subsequently, Montana’s Supreme Court tossed the program altogether in 2018. Critics of the law asserted it undermined funding for public schools.

But even this Supreme Court — or at least five of its justices — could see the obvious bias and breach of the First Amendment in Montana singling out religious schools.

“A State need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority’s opinion. “But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

Conservatives have howled with much justification about Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch in recent days. But The Wall Street Journal nailed the importance of the last presidential election, and the next one. “This is one of the cases,” the Journal said in an editorial Tuesday, “that would have gone the other way had Hillary Clinton nominated the Justice to replace Antonin Scalia.”

The importance of the decision was not lost on President Donald Trump, whose administration has done more to promote school choice than any that came before it.

“Today’s SCOTUS ruling is a historic win for families who want SCHOOL CHOICE NOW!” the president tweeted.

“#SchoolChoice is a civil rights issue, and no parent should have to send their child to a failing school. I will continue to fight for School Choice and will always defend Religious Freedom!”


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