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Case

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • Parents’ right to send their kids to private schools that share their religious beliefs.
  • Parents’ right to choose the best schools for their own kids.
  • The states’ ability to offer school choice programs free from fear of attack by those who oppose parents’ rights and school choice.
  • Whether people who suffer no harm from the existence of school choice programs will be able to attack these constitutionally-sound programs in court. 

Summary

In 1997, the Arizona legislature enacted a statute that allows Arizona taxpayers to donate their own money to a “school tuition organization” (STO) of their choice, and then claim a credit on their state income tax obligation for the amount donated. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO) is one of more than 50 non-profit 501(c)(3) corporations organized to distribute private donations as scholarships to more than 27,000 students attending hundreds of private schools throughout the state.

The ACLU and a handful of Arizona taxpayers filed a lawsuit alleging that the tax credit violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by allowing religious non-profits like ACSTO to participate in the state scholarship program.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of ACSTO, dismissing the lawsuit and holding that the ACLU’s clients had no right to sue over someone else’s private donations. The decision stands as a national precedent that protects parents' choices of the best school for their children, including private schools that share their religious beliefs. 

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom and its allied attorneys intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization and defended the constitutionality of the program.

Learn More
Resources

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
{"docs": [{"Court": "AppellateCourt", "Title": "Order to stay pending appeal", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v.-winn/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v-winn---order-to-stay-pending-appeal.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 9:19:26 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "Cert grant order", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v.-winn/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v-winn---cert-grant-order.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 9:19:26 PM"}, {"Court": "AppellateCourt", "Title": "Petition for rehearing", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v.-winn/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v-winn---petition-for-rehearing.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 9:19:26 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "U.S. Supreme Court opinion", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v.-winn/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v-winn---u-s-supreme-court-opinion.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 9:19:27 PM"}, {"Court": "AppellateCourt", "Title": "9th Circuit en banc denial", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v.-winn/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v-winn---9th-circuit-en-banc-denial.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 9:19:26 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "Petition for certiorari", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v.-winn/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v-winn---petition-for-certiorari.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 9:19:26 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "Opening brief", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v.-winn/arizona-christian-school-tuition-organization-v-winn---opening-brief.pdf", "Date": "10/26/2017 9:19:26 PM"}]}

Biographies

David A. Cortman

Senior Counsel, Vice President of U.S. Litigation

David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom.

David Cortman: "Saving Arizona's tuition tax credit program" by David Cortman (The Washington Times, 3/3/2011)

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