The Center for Inquiry is a leading skeptic and secular humanist organization in the world based out of the United States. One of the troubling court cases coming out of America, recently, was the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case in which American taxpayers, generally, would foot the bill for forms of religious indoctrination, whether religious or secular Americans – clear asymmetry in the application of funding and a violation of a longstanding principle of separation of church and state in the United States of America.
This was a Supreme Court decision that forces American taxpayers to pay this. There is a gutting of protections provided by both the American Constitution and the No Aid Provisions of 3/4ers of state constitutions forbidding the taxpayer monies to use for any religious purpose.
Nick Little, Vice President and Legal Director of the Center for Inquiry, stated, “This Court has been opening a hole up in Thomas Jefferson’s Wall of Separation between church and state… Now they’ve built a two-lane highway through that hole, inviting churches to raid the public treasury and drive gleefully away with taxpayer money.”
Starting, at least, in 2015, Montana began a tax credit voucher program for taxpayers to get credit if they gave monies to Student Scholarship Organizations. These funded scholarships for private school students.
Most of the private schools in Montana are religious. This is the same across the country. In other words, the funding is for religion. Via Article X, Section 6 of the Montana Constitution, though, there are explicit bans for the use of taxpayer dollars for “religious education.”
“… the Montana Department of Revenue adopted Rule 1, stating that the vouchers could not be used to pay for religious education provided by religious schools. Parents at religious schools sued,” CFI reported.
Based on a 2018 Montana Supreme Court decision, the support for the religious schools violated the Montana Constitution. Thusly, the program was “struck down; thereby “preventing the vouches being used at any private school, religious or not,” now, “the program no longer exists.” However, “the Supreme Court nonetheless agreed to review the ruling.”
Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President and CEO, stated, “Let’s be clear about what just happened: The Supreme Court has decided that atheist taxpayers are now required to fund religious schools… Members of non-Christian faiths are now required to fund Christian education. The religious right has gotten exactly what it wanted from Trump’s justices: the erasure of a fundamental principle of American law, that no person shall be forced to participate in religious expression by subsidizing religious education.”
Little continued to state the theocratic path this potentially sets forth for the United States in which this exists in contradistinction to the orientation of the Founders or the Framers of the United States Constitution, where religious activities, including education, shall not be supported by the public purse. Nonetheless, with the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case, there can be funding not only by choice but by compulsion.
Previously, in November of 2019, in an amicus brief by CFI supporting the Montana Department of Revenue the organization (CFI) support the constitutional separation of religion and government. in upholding Montana’s constitutional separation of church and state.
CFI concluded, “CFI is also a proud member of the National Coalition for Public Education, which vocally opposes all forms of private school voucher legislation in the U.S. Congress. In June 2020, CFI joined a diverse coalition urging congressional leadership to strike language in COVID-19 relief legislation that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had used to divert emergency education funds to a private voucher scheme.”
With files from the Center for Inquiry.