A landmark legal decision is coming from the U.S. Supreme Court that could impact private schools across the country, and at least one of the justices has stated he is troubled by the case before him.
Diana Verm, an attorney with religious law firm Becket, tells OneNewsNow she remains optimistic that the high court will rule in favor of Kendra Espinoza, the lead plaintiff, and other Montana parents and students.
Espinoza is a mother of two daughters who attend a private Christian school.
The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, involves a 2015 Montana program that gives residents a tax credit up to $150 for contributing to scholarships for students to attend private schools of their choice.
The program was struck down by the Montana supreme court because students can use their scholarships at religious private schools. The court cites the state’s Blaine Amendment, which forbids taxpayer-paid funds from flowing to religious schools.
“Based on the tenor of the argument,” Verm says, “you could hear justices understood this was about religious discrimination and whether or not the state can take away public benefits from people, just because they want to use them for something religious."
According to Verm, Blaine Amendments have a “bigoted history” because their purpose during the late 1800s was to address Catholic immigration that was affecting the school system.
As many as 40 states still have their own version of a Blaine Amendment, which is named after the late congressman who tried but failed to pass a constitutional amendment.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the newest face on the Supreme Court, described it as grotesque religious bigotry during oral arguments.
"He asked the lawyer from Montana, Don't you agree this is rooted in grotesque religious bigotry?" recalls Verm. "Those are pretty strong words to use at oral argument, but I was glad that the Blaine Amendments were being recognized for what they are."
Justice Samuel Alito was also vocal about the history of the Blaine Amendment, which was introduced by states at the same time Irish Catholics were coming to the United States during the Irish potato famine, according to a post-hearing op-ed written by a legal analyst Heritage Foundation
A ruling against the Blaine Amendments would impact people of all faiths, Verm points out, not just Catholics.
"They're being used to prevent public benefits from going to anyone --- any religious group," she warns.