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Supreme Court of the United States

Generational Wins: A Victory for Parental Rights in Educational Choice

March 17, 2021

A generational win is a significant victory that changes the law and culture of the nation for a generation. Deliberate action is taken following that victory in order to ensure that it endures for generations to come.

This is the third in a series of blog posts that will outline how some key courtroom victories helped protect freedom in five critical areas. See other posts on Religious Freedom and Free Speech.

Download a PDF version of this post here.

Parental Rights

WHO: Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO)

WHAT: ACSTO v. Winn

The ACLU and a group of Arizona taxpayers sued a private Christian school tuition program for distributing funds in the form of scholarship to private Christian schools. If successful, this lawsuit would have limited a parent’s right to choose a school best suited for their child’s education.

WHEN: The lawsuit against ACSTO was filed in 2000. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case in 2010.

WHERE: Arizona

WHY: The State of Arizona enacted legislation allowing taxpayers to donate funds to charitable school tuition organizations (STOs) and claim a tax credit. It allows STOs to be formed for any group of private schools—religious or nonreligious—giving parents more choices as they select the best school for their child’s education.

But a group of Arizona taxpayers represented by the ACLU filed a lawsuit against ACSTO, asserting that this program violated the Establishment Clause simply because religious schools could benefit from it.

THE OUTCOME: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that taxpayers who didn’t like the program had no legal standing to challenge how private organizations used funds donated by private individuals.

HOW IT AFFECTS YOU NOW: At least 16 states have scholarship tax credit programs like Arizona’s that benefit thousands of families. Those programs are now free to embody true diversity by including religious schools in the choices available to families. The donations made as a result of this victory have also helped make high-quality private schools a reality for lower income families who might have only dreamed about the opportunity previously.

HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR FUTURE: ACSTO will continue to play an important role defending school choice in the future…

  1. State legislatures have more freedom to enact school choice programs that include religious schools without fear of lawsuits demanding that religious schools be excluded.
  2. It opens up new innovative pathways to fund school choice programs through tax credit scholarships (and other creative means) that allow families to decide how best to educate their children.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s victory at the highest court in ACSTO sets an invaluable precedent. Cases like this can bear fruit in many ways and continue to influence culture long after the decision is made. But the work is far from over.

We know the threats to religious liberty, free speech, the sanctity of human life, and parental rights will not stop. And when those fundamental rights are violated, ADF stands ready to defend them in courtrooms at every level, all across the nation. That’s exactly what we have been doing for more than 25 years. And with God’s blessing we will continue to do so. Will you join us?

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Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

Non-profit organization

Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith


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