Legal Spirits Episode 013: A New Supreme Court Case From Montana Concerning the “Blaine Amendment”

Section 6. AID PROHIBITED TO SECTARIAN SCHOOLS. (1) The legislature, counties, cities, towns, school districts, and public corporations shall not make any direct or indirect appropriation or payment from any public fund or monies, or any grant of lands or other property for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination

In this podcast, we discuss a new case that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, concerning a Montana law that created a tax credit scholarship program whose proceeds were directed, in part, to religious schools. The Montana Supreme Court held that the law violated Montana’s Constitution, which has a provision barring any aid to “sectarian” educational institutions. We discuss the historical background to the controversy, the Montana opinion, and the cert. petition. We consider some of the operative metaphors the Supreme Court has used to discuss these kinds of cases (“play in the joints”) and underlying federal constitutional issues and tensions involving neutrality and equality. Listen in!

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