My little corner of Montana just took center stage in a major battle for religious freedom.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments Wednesday in the case of Kendra Espinoza, a Kalispell, Montana, mother, and other plaintiffs who say the state unfairly tried to cut them out of a scholarship program for private K-12 education because they chose to enroll their children in religious schools.
Mind you, the state was not directly funding the schools, but rather had provided a small ($150) tax credit for certain contributions to private scholarship programs.
I wrote about the case in 2016 when I was editor of the Daily Inter Lake and the plaintiff’s were battling their way through the lower courts. They have been represented capably by the Institute for Justice.
In an editorial headlined, “Put restraints on government, not parents,” I noted that “There was never any doubt what the 2015 Legislature intended when it approved a law that allows tax credits for donations of up to $150 to private school scholarships or to innovative educational programs in public schools. It intended to bolster the ability of private citizens to support the education efforts of both public and private schools.”
Unfortunately, in a brazen abuse of power, the Department of Revenue under Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock took the law into its own hands “by declaring unilaterally that the Legislature could not possibly have meant to allow tax credits for contributions made to scholarships at private religious schools.”
At that time, it looked like common sense might prevail, but the anti-religious fervor of the radical left is deeply ingrained and Montana joined with outside forces to try to prevent Espinoza and two other parents with children attending Stillwater Christian School from taking advantage of the fund-raising mechanism authorized by the Legislature.
You would think this tax credit would not be controversial. It is similar in nature to the tax deduction that millions of families use for donations to charitable organizations run by churches. But because of anti-religious laws passed in the late 1800s when many legislators were afraid of the influx of Catholics from Ireland, Italy and elsewhere, religious schools were singled out by many states to be specifically excluded from access to programs that benefitted other private schools.
Now, of course, it’s not just Catholics who scare humanist lawmakers but anyone with belief in divine providence. The enemies of religion say they are just enforcing the so-called First Amendment “separation of church and state,” but there is no such thing. The First Amendment prohibits the state from passing a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” There is nothing limiting religious people from participating in programs available to other residents of a state.
Oddly enough, this principle is so clear that even The Washington Post is on the side of Kendra Espinoza and the other parents fighting for their own religious freedom. In an editorial Sunday headlined “The choice should be theirs to make,” the Post notes that families using scholarships at religious schools “doesn’t undermine public education or harm the state.”
Bravo, you crazy liberal hacks. I don’t know how you happened to stumble on the truth, but I will happily applaud you when you are right. Please try to exercise the same common sense when talking about the Second Amendment, the Russia Hoax and the sham impeachment currently underway!
ABOUT HEARTLAND DIARY
Frank Miele has spent four decades in the news business and now offers conservative commentary to counter the left-wing bias in the national media. If you enjoy reading these daily essays, I hope you will consider purchasing one of my books. They are available through the following Amazon links. My new book — “The Media Matrix: What if everything you know is fake?” — shows that Fake News has been around for years. The “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy tackles the politics of the last two decades: Part 1 is subtitled “Bush’s Global Failure: Half Right.” Part 2 is “Obama’s Fundamental Transformation: Far Left.” Part 3 is “Trump’s American Vision: Just Right.” As an Amazon Associate, I may earn referral fees for qualifying purchases through links on my website. Also consider subscribing to Heartland Diary on YouTube by clicking here for News Every Conservative Can Use. My goal is to reach 1,000 subscribers.