Free Exercise Clause

In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause allows families to receive tax-credit funded scholarships to attend religious schools regardless of the Montana Constitution’s no-aid to sectarian schools provision.

The Montana legislature established a program offering tax credits for donations to “student scholarship organization,” which give children scholarships to...

There are two ways of looking at this case, both of which are hard to argue with: state aid to religious organizations means less money for secular causes, and all preschool students should have access to safe playgrounds no matter where they go to school.

In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley the Supreme Court will decide whether Missouri can refuse to allow a religious preschool to receive a state grant to resurface its playground based on Missouri’s “super-Establishment Clause.”    

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers grants to “qualifying organizations” to purchase recycled tires to resurface playgrounds. The DNR refused to give a grant to Trinity Church’s preschool because Missouri’s constitution prohibits providing state aid directly or indirectly to churches.

The majority of the state constitutions contain “Blaine Amendments” or “super-Establishment Clauses” whose prohibitions against aid to churches and religious schools exceed the requirements of the federal Establishment Clause.