The Supreme Court must decide if an Arizona program that gives tax credits for private school donations favors religion, or if participants in the program are just exercising personal choice.
A US Supreme Court case challenging Arizona’s religious school funding program evolved into a debate over whether money from a tax credit is still the government’s money even after it has been channeled by taxpayers into a private program.
It is not a minor point.
In oral argument on Wednesday, Paul Bender, a Phoenix lawyer for taxpayers opposed to the Arizona program, said the tuition assistance plan is unconstitutional because it amounts to a distribution of government funds to subsidize religious education.
Arizona taxpayers may claim a $500 tax credit when they make a donation to help underwrite private school tuition – including tuition at religious schools.
Supporters of the program maintain that the donation and tax credit are the result of a private decision that does not entangle government in any direct support for religious schools.
Opponents say the Arizona system is designed to channel government tax credit money in a way that bolsters religious schools. They say it is unconstitutional government support for religion in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.
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