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AZ School Choice Law, Protect People of Faith, Religious Schools from Discrimination

Written by Right Side News

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ABC-of-school-choiceRutherford Institute Asks Supreme Court to Uphold AZ School Choice Law, Protect People of Faith, Religious Schools from Discrimination

WASHINGTON, DC - Insisting that Arizona's school choice law does not improperly endorse religion in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, The Rutherford Institute has filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn.

A copy of The Rutherford Institute's brief in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn is available at www.rutherford.org.

The Arizona law was intended to increase school choice by allowing state residents to claim a tax credit for donations to private organizations that provide scholarships to private schools. However, as Institute attorneys point out, if an errant ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is allowed to stand, people of faith will find themselves stigmatized because of their religious beliefs.

"When you strip away the First Amendment terminology cloaking the Ninth Circuit's reasoning in Winn, what you find is naked hostility toward religion. America is all about choice and equality, and that's ultimately what this case is all about," stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "It is our hope that the United States Supreme Court will bring the First Amendment back to its libertarian moorings. The Establishment Clause was not intended as cover for the imposition of handicaps on people of faith."

In 1997, Arizona enacted a statute allowing taxpayers to claim an income tax credit in the amount of donations made to school tuition organizations ("STOs"), which are charitable organizations which donate at least 90% of their income to children as tuition assistance for attending private schools, whether they be religious schools, secular schools, or both. After the statute took effect, several taxpayers challenged the law arguing that, as applied, the law violates the Establishment Clause because it advances religion.

Although a federal district court initially dismissed the lawsuit, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, declaring that it "lacks religious neutrality and true private choice in making scholarships available to parents. Although scholarship aid is allocated partially through the individual choices of Arizona taxpayers, overall the program in practice 'carries with it the imprimatur of government endorsement.'"

In rejecting the Ninth Circuit's reasoning that the Arizona law lacks religious neutrality, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that the law affords all Arizona students a broader range of educational opportunities by providing students in low-income districts with the same schooling options as those available to wealthier families. Each year, The Rutherford Institute receives countless requests for help from individuals whose First Amendment rights have been threatened or violated due to a misinterpretation of the Establishment Clause by a variety of government officers and agencies.

 The Rutherford Institute | Post Office Box 7482 | Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
Phone: 434-978-3888 (8:30 AM - 5:00 PM) | Fax: 434-978-1789 
©2010 The Rutherford Institute

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The ABC's of School Choice:from the Foundation for Educational Choice

The evidence that school choice works is too strong to deny. Consider what we have learned during the past decade. 

•SCHOOL CHOICE WORKS - Children who use vouchers do better on basic skills tests and are more likely to graduate.
•SCHOOL CHOICE IS LEGAL - The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this in 2002
•SCHOOL CHOICE IS POPULAR - A majority of the public continues to believe that parents should be free to choose the best school for their child.
•SCHOOL CHOICE SAVES MONEY - Studies confirm school choice means big savings for states without reducing per-pupil spending in public schools.
•SCHOOL CHOICE IS WINNING - Every year new school choice programs are enacted while existing programs are steadily expanded.

 

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