Washington, D.C. –Today, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold an Arizona state tuition tax credit program that allows Arizona taxpayers to receive tax breaks through contributing to “school tuition organizations” that overwhelmingly fund religiously affiliated private schools. In September 2010, Interfaith Alliance joined a friend-of-the-court brief, authored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, in opposition to the Arizona program. Other signatories were the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to the decision in the combined cases, Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. and Garriott v. Winn:
I am as baffled as I am disappointed in the decision reached by the Supreme Court today. Not only has the Court left in place a tax credit arrangement that provides financial aid disproportionately to religious schools but, more disturbingly, in ruling that those challenging the program lacked “standing” to do so, today’s decision makes it even more difficult for Americans to exercise their right to challenge their government’s actions. Conversely, as noted in the dissenting opinion of the Court, this decision in essence provides a new model for those who seek to funnel taxpayer dollars to religious schools. Whether it is provided directly or indirectly, financial aid from the government to religious institutions is still just that, government funding of religion; and it is cause for concern both for the sanctity of religious institutions and for government institutions.
It is a sad day when the highest Court in the nation makes a ruling that broadsides the Establishment Clause by approving a government funding scheme that benefits religion and weakens a fundamental promise in the Constitution—our first freedom, religious freedom. One wonders what this court is trying to do to our society!
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.