Montana moms win big victory for religious freedom

It took nearly five years, but the crusade of two mothers from Kalispell, Montana, for justice, finally paid off when the U.S. Supreme Court in a surprise decision agreed with their lawsuit that said parents of children in church-affiliated schools should not be discriminated against by the state.

I say it is a surprise decision because Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the conservatives on the court and thus struck down the 150 year practice of discrimination against religious education that was established by the so-called Blaine Amendments starting in the 1870s. Anytime Roberts gets it right it has to be a surprise, especially after his decision yesterday to protect the rights of mothers to kill their children by abortion no matter what. 

Oh well, I had decided not to lambaste Roberts again yesterday. What’s the point. He is such a disappointment. But then today he wrote the majority opinion in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue which at least cane out on the side of common sense, although Roberts as usual was bereft of any.

The case started in 2015 when the Department of Revenue decided to throw out a law passed by the Legislature that offered a modest state tax credit to parents who put their children into private schools. The reason? Because the law was being used by parents whose children attended religious schools. “Can’t have that,” the Department of Revenue decided, and it overrode the Legislature’s clear intent in passing the law.

Well, the bureaucrats who were offended by Christians (and possibly other religious folks) getting a $150 tax credit never counted on the persistence and faithfulness of three Montana moms who saw the case all the way fromDistrict Court in Flathead County to the United States Supreme Court. Kalispell parents Kendra Espinoza and Jeri Anderson and Bigfork parent Jaime Schaefer saw a wrong and they set out to right it, and now about three dozen states across the country are going to have to change their practice of discriminating against people of faith.

The practice began in the late 1800s when Catholics from Ireland and then Italy flooded the country. Close-minded Republicans in league with the growing number of public educators treated the newcomers like second-class citizens and made sure they got no help from the government even though they were actually removing a burden from taxpayers by handling education on their own. House leader James Blaine nearly got a constitutional amendment passed to allow this discrimination nationwide, but even though that failed, more than 30 states approved so-called Blaine Amendments that codified the anti-religious rule in their own constitutions.

It was always obvious that the ban was inherently unconstitutional in that it prevented people from the free exercise of their religious liberties, but for 150 years it was used to oppress first Catholics, then Jews and no doubt Muslims who did not want to send their children to public schools where they would be indoctrinated in dogmas antithetical to their own beliefs.


Sadly, the ruling by the court in defense of liberty was, as usual on cases involving liberty, decided on a 5-4 vote. And despite Roberts’ using judicial precedent as the reason for his unconscionable vote to protect abortion, it is unlikely the liberal justices will bow to precedent in future rulings on the topic of religious liberty. As soon as they are able to replace one of the conservative justices on the bench, the liberals will happily reinstitute religious oppression as part of their progressive agenda.

The dissenting opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor was illuminating on just how confused liberals are about the Constitution, which was intended to limit government to certain finite and prescribed powers and to reserve as much liberty as possible to the people. Sotomayor blasted Robert’s opinion as “perverse” and said “Without any need or power to do so, the Court appears to require a State to re-instate a tax-credit program that the Constitution did not demand in the first place.”

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Talk about perverse! Sotomayor apparently envisions the U.S. Constitution as somehow the operating instructions for state governments. If the Constitution says that a state can have a tax credit for private education (including religious education) then it is OK, but if the Constitution is silent, then it is a no-no. This is exactly opposite of the truth about the Constitution. It very clearly states that whatever powers are not granted to the federal government by the Constitution re reserved to the states and the people.

Well, let’s savor the victory — because whatever the court granteth today, the court can certainly taketh away tomorrow.


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Heartland Diary is solely operated by Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. 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 is “How We Got Here: The Left’s Assault on the Constitution” and is now available in paperback and as an eBook. It’s 536 pages and chock full of research on the progressive movement and the patriotic heroes who have fought against it. My earlier books include “The Media Matrix: What if everything you know is fake?” and the “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy. 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.


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