U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Arizona School-Choice Program that Gives Tax Credit for Scholarship Money Given to Religious Schools

4 April 2011 – Ruling Issued

June 2010 – Washington, D.C.
Joseph Hepworth

The United States Supreme Court announced on 24 May 2010 that it would hear the case Garriott v. Winn. The Court will decide whether a law that gives Arizona residents a state tax credit for their donations to private scholarship agencies that support students in religious schools violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The establishment clause bars the government from endorsing any particular church or religion.

Defenders of the law said that the tax-credit program is constitutional because the government does not collect or distribute any of the scholarship money. All the money that is collected is given by private individuals and distributed by private organizations. A 2009 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the tax credit was unconstitutional because it favored religious schools, which were the predominant recipients of the programs’ funds. Attorneys for the state of Arizona, joined by other interested parties, have asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s ruling. The Court will consider the case in its next term.