“On the contrary,” Kennedy said, “respondents and other Arizona taxpayers remain free to pay their own tax bills, without contributing to [the religious school tax credit program].”
The decision is important because it signals the intention of five members of the court to enforce a narrow interpretation of when taxpayers may be permitted to file lawsuits seeking to prove the government is engaged in unconstitutional support for or entanglement with religion.
In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the decision will make it harder for ordinary citizens to challenge government actions that they feel violate the First Amendment principle of government neutrality concerning religion.
“Appropriations and tax subsidies are readily interchangeable,” Kagan wrote. “What is a cash grant today can be a tax break tomorrow.”
She added: “The court’s opinion thus offers a road map … to any government that wishes to insulate its financing of religious activity from legal challenge.”
Supporters of the tax credit program praised the ruling.
“Today’s decision marks the fifth time in recent years that the Supreme Court has rebuffed efforts by school choice opponents to use the courts to halt programs that empower families to choose a private school education,” said Tim Keller, executive director of the Arizona Chapter of the Institute for Justice.