Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Espinoza v. Montana, challenging a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court that overturned a 2015 law providing tax credits to those who donate money to private schools. At issue is the state’s “Blaine Amendment,” which strictly forbids government support for religious education. Such amendments, present in many state constitutions, were an outgrowth of 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry, but since the 20th century have been widely supported by Jews. Jonathan Tobin argues that it’s time to reconsider:
[T]hanks to other Supreme Court rulings, efforts to force Jewish children to recite Christian prayers in school are . . . a distant memory. But the fears of the past are still motivating many Jews to adopt a mindset that sees private religious schools—whether Jewish, Catholic or evangelical—as a threat to public education or church-state separation. Extreme separationism, such as the effort to oppose even the indirect aid that tuition tax credits give to faith-based schools, ignores the plight of poor students [who] are . . . trapped in failing public schools because their parents don’t have the money to send them to private or religious schools.
It also fails to take into account the interests of society in supporting educational institutions that help religious minorities thrive, such as Jewish day schools. Yet outside Agudath Israel, which represents the interests of ultra-Orthodox Jews, Jewish groups aren’t rallying to support [the plaintiff in this case], or efforts to preserve and expand laws in other states that have helped both Jewish and non-Jewish families afford private education costs.
Prejudice against private and religious education hurts children while doing nothing to preserve anyone’s constitutional rights.