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ADF attorneys appeal to U.S. Supreme Court to protect school choice in Ariz.

Tuition tax credit program under ACLU attack
School Locker

WASHINGTON — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday, asking it to reverse a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that declared portions of a tuition tax credit program for students unconstitutional. ADF attorneys argue that the program--which allows state residents to claim a tax credit for donations to private organizations that provide scholarships to private schools--is constitutional because the program involves individual, private choices and funding, not government action or money.

“Parents should be able to choose the right school for their children. Arizona’s tuition program lets parents decide what schools their children and money go to,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “This program involves private money that the government never touches and offers Arizonans a wide array of educational choices. The program is set up to allow any number of organizations to be created for the purpose of distributing donations to any and all types of students. There’s nothing unconstitutional about that.”

Last April, the court stopped short of ending the tuition tax credit program as demanded by the American Civil Liberties Union. Instead, the court stated that its constitutional concerns regarding the program are whether all school tuition organizations should be forced to fund both religious and non-religious organizations. The court stayed its decision while the case is on appeal.

In response to claims by the ACLU and its allies that the program limits parental choice, ADF attorneys contend that the program’s existing structure gives Arizonans a broad range of educational choices. ADF attorneys argue that school tuition organizations that fund only religious schools do not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because they are private organizations that do not distribute any government money. They stress that Arizonans are free to choose other school tuition organizations that fund non-religious private schools, emphasizing that residents can even start such organizations on their own, if they so choose.

“School tuition organizations can legally fund any type of private school, whether religious or non-religious,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Such funding does not become unconstitutional just because non-religious organizations have not chosen to take advantage of the opportunity as readily.”

ADF attorneys decided to file the petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winnafter a full panel of the 9th Circuit declined to hear an appeal of a three-judge panel’s decision from May of last year.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.