By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
U.S. Bishops hailed a Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday that religious schools should not be excluded from a tax credit scholarship program in Montana.
In a 5 to 4 decision in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court ruled against the Montana state constitution’s “Blaine Amendment” of 1889 which bars public funding of religious institutions solely because of their faith-based status.
In light of this, the Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, and the Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland, issued a statement on Tuesday.
“This is good news, not only for people of faith, but for our country. A strong civil society needs the full participation of religious institutions,” the Bishops said welcoming the decision.
“The Court has rightly ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to discriminate against religion. This decision means that religious persons and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all,” they added.
“By ensuring the rights of faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve, the Court is also promoting the common good.”
Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Barber said that the recent ruling has “dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti-Catholicism in America.”
They pointed out that the “Blaine Amendments, which are in 37 states’ constitutions, were the product of nativism and bigotry,” and “were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion. They were rather "expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church.”
Concluding the statement, the Bishops expressed their gratitude that “the Supreme Court has taken an important step that will help bring an end to this shameful legacy.”