Tax credits for religious schools? Supreme Court says taxpayers have no say.
The Supreme Court rules 5 to 4 that taxpayers do not have legal standing to challenge an Arizona tax-credit program because the state is not directly funding the parochial schools.
In a 5-to-4 decision, the high court said the taxpayers lacked the necessary legal standing to bring their lawsuit.
The action sweeps away a ruling by a federal appeals court panel that had struck down the tax credit program as a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion.
The majority justices did not directly address the larger constitutional issue. Instead, the 19-page decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy focuses on whether the complaining taxpayers had suffered a direct and personal injury from Arizona’s religious school tax credit program.
Justice Kennedy drew a sharp distinction between government expenditures from the general treasury that directly benefit religion versus tax credits that provide individual citizens an opportunity to decide for themselves whether to direct the credited funds to a religious school.
“When Arizona taxpayers choose to contribute [to the tax credit program], they spend their own money, not money the state has collected from respondents or from other taxpayers,” Kennedy wrote.
“Arizona’s [tax credit law] does not extract and spend a conscientious dissenter’s funds in service of an establishment [of religion],” he said.
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