BILLINGS, Mont. -- A divided U.S. Supreme Court rules that religious schools in Montana can be eligible for a state scholarship program funded by tax credits. The court's 5-4 decision ruled in favor of three Montana mothers in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.
The three mothers, the plaintiffs in this case, applied for the state-funded scholarships to keep their children enrolled at Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell. Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling strikes down the Montana Constitution's ban on state aid to religious schools.
The ruling is a victory for parents, like Kendra Espinoza, who want to use these scholarships to send their children to a religious school.
"This is truly a historic moment and a big victory for our family and for so many other families," she says, "Our first amendment rights have been upheld, which is incredible for us and that ability for us to exercise our religion as we see fit and make the choices that we need to for our families, for our education. For our family that means being able to receive scholarships without discrimination and that is a very big win for all of America. We're excited."
U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines have both weighed in on the matter. Senator Tester says, "This troubling decision out of Washington, D.C. undermines our public schools and will hurt future generations. A strong public education system is the foundation of our democracy and I will continue to fight aggressively against any attempt to divert resources away from our schools.”
Senator Daines has a different stance. He says, "I’m very glad the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn the State of Montana’s discriminatory action and support three Montana mothers who were trying to do what’s best for their children’s education. Today is a major victory across Montana and the country for religious liberty. Religious discrimination has no place in our country.”
Amanda Curtis, President of the Montana Federation of Public Employees disapproves of the Supreme Court's decision saying, "public dollars should support public institutions that benefit all of us."
The U.S. Supreme Court first agreed to hear the case almost exactly one year ago, on June 28th.