The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

(202) 466-3234 Joe Conn Rob Boston Sandhya Bathija

Arizona Supreme Court Should Rule Against School Voucher Subsidies For Religious Schools, Says Americans United

Tax Aid To Religion Violates The State Constitution And A Fundamental Cornerstone Of The American Republic, Church-State Watchdog's Brief Asserts


The Arizona Supreme Court should strike down two voucher programs
that direct tax dollars into religious and other private schools,
according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In a friend-of-the-court brief
filed Dec. 1, Americans United urged the justices to hold that the
voucher plans violate explicit provisions of the state constitution
that bar public funding of private education. For example, Article IX,
Section 10 states that "no tax shall be laid or appropriation of public
money in aid of any...private or sectarian school."

Observed the AU brief, "No-aid provisions likes this one exist in
many state constitutions as a supplement to basic church-state
protections, and voucher schemes like the two at issue here contradict
their plain meaning.... In addition to the obvious financial benefit they
provide to sectarian private schools (in the form of publicly funded
tuition payments), the voucher provisions aid the religious missions of
these schools and of the religious groups that operate them."

Americans United noted that opposition to taxation in support of religion has a long constitutional history.

"Thomas Jefferson emphatically wrote" the brief asserted, "that one
of the principal cornerstones of our republic is a 'wall of separation
between Church and State'.... The tenet of church-state separation with
the longest and deepest historical pedigree is the prohibition on the
expenditure of taxes to support religion in general or religious
training in particular."

Americans United also urged the justices to be wary of claims that
voucher programs benefit students. The brief cited an array of studies
indicating that voucher plans do not improve student academic

The Arizona Court of Appeals has already ruled in the Cain v. Horne case that the programs violate the state constitution.

A hearing at the state's high court is scheduled for Dec. 9.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.