Brief Fact Summary.
Ohio enacted a Pilot Project Scholarship Program which provides financial assistance in the form of tuition aid to families in the Cleveland City School District attending any participating public or private school. Any private school, whether religious or nonreligious, could participate in this tuition aid program. A group of Ohio taxpayers brought suit.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A state tuition aid program that allows parents to send their children to religious private schools does not violate the Establishment Clause.
They knew the anguish, hardship and bitter strife that could come when zealous religious groups struggled with one another to obtain the Government's stamp of approval from each King, Queen, or Protector that came to temporary power.View Full Point of Law
Ohio enacted a Pilot Project Scholarship Program which provides financial assistance in the form of tuition aid to families in the Cleveland City School District attending any participating public or private school. Any private school, whether religious or nonreligious, could participate in this tuition aid program. A group of Ohio taxpayers brought suit against such this program in district court, claiming that the program had the effect of providing taxpayer money to religious institutions. Ohio argued that this situation differed from previous Establishment Clause cases because the money was not awarded directly to religious schools, but instead went to private individuals who then chose to use the money at a religious institution.
Does Ohio’s tuition aid program violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?
No, Ohio’s tuition aid program does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The scale of aid to religious schools approved in today’s decision is unprecedented. In paying for practically the full amount of tuition for thousands of qualifying students, the scholarships purchase everything that tuition purchases, from instruction in math to indoctrination in faith. Substantial amounts of tax money are effectively underwriting religious practice and indoctrination. Every objective underlying the prohibition of religious establishment in the Establishment Clause is betrayed by this scheme.
Ohio’s tuition aid program does not distinguish between religious and non-religious schools. Both are reasonable educational alternatives in the program. Many of the tuition aid recipients do, in fact, use community, magnet, or non-religious private schools. This demonstrates that private choice is available and thus, the program does not violate the Establishment Clause.
The program challenged here is a program of true private choice. It is neutral in all respects toward religion. It is part of a general undertaking by the state of Ohio to provide educational opportunities to the children of a failed school district. It confers educational assistance directly to a broad class of individuals defined without reference to religion. The program permits the participation of all schools within the district, religious or nonreligious. The only preference stated anywhere in the program is a preference for low-income families. There are no financial incentives that skew the program toward religious schools. There is also no evidence that the program fails to provide genuine opportunities for Cleveland parents to select secular educational options.