In Matthew 5:16 it says that Christians are to wear their beliefs like a badge of honor: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” One way that many Christians in America have sought to live out this command is by educating their children from home or in private schools that help impart their faith to their children.
Limiting Religious Expression
Due to a “Blaine Amendment” that was meant to restrict Catholic influence on state educational systems in Montana, a majority of enrollees in a tax credit scholarship program for funding their children’s education found themselves out of luck as it was determined that the state could not provide funding for these parents to send their children to private religious schools. Since most private schools in the state were religiously affiliated, this rendered the program almost entirely ineffective. The nation has watched with bated breath to see how the Supreme Court would rule since similar amendments exist in over half of the states in our Union.
Issues of religious liberty have cropped up more and more in recent years as attempts to limit religious expression have increased. Sadly, legal precedent on this issue has remained unclear, leaving the faithful in limbo. As Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote in a concurring opinion, “our Establishment Clause jurisprudence [on religious freedom] is in hopeless disarray.”
Victory for Child Education
Fortunately, a victory was claimed as Justice John Roberts released his majority opinion in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, et al., declaring that parents in states with Blaine Amendments ought to be able to use educational tax credit scholarship program to enroll their children in private religious schools.
As Roberts put it, “The Department’s argument that the no-aid [to religious schools] provision actually promotes religious freedom is unavailing because an infringement of First Amendment rights cannot be justified by a State’s alternative view that the infringement advances religious liberty.”
Religion Nullifies Education?
The idea that a religiosity nullifies the legitimacy of education is demonstrated clearly in a tweet from the president of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen García, who complained that “the Espinoza decision narrows the bases on which states may refuse [Betsy Devos’] calls to fund private religious schools.” Some of her later comments in the thread referenced “accountability,” implying that only education approved by the state was of acceptable quality.
However, the Supreme Court did not order states to fund private religious schools. Rather, they said that, if the states were going to make tax credit scholarships available for parents to use at private schools, they could not discriminate based on how their religious affiliation was expressed in the private schools they chose.
Celebrate & Be Prepared
As we celebrate this exciting victory for our children and for religious freedom, let us daily “put on the full armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) so that we may continue to “stand our ground” (Eph. 6:13) when secular movements attempt to push our faith out of the public square. Though we don’t fight against flesh and blood, a battle still rages on in our country against our faith and our children. Let us turn to the Lord daily in prayer: for our families, for our schools, for our leaders, and for our nation.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18
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