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Defense of Ariz. tax credit program continues

ADF attorneys appeal bad portions of ruling in ACLU legal attack on school choice

PASADENA, Calif. — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed an appeal Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on behalf of the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization.  In the appeal to a larger panel of the court, ADF attorneys argue that Arizona’s tuition tax credit program, which allows state residents to claim a tax credit for donations to private organizations that provide scholarships to private schools, is fully consistent with the Constitution because individual, private choices--not government action--cause money to flow to the schools.

“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, plain and simple,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb.  “The concerns of the earlier ruling from the 9th Circuit are satisfied by the program’s existing structure, which gives Arizonans a broad range of educational choices.”

In April, the court stopped short of ending the tuition tax credit program as the ACLU requested.  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.  On this issue, the court remanded the case back to the district court to determine if the program limits parental choice.

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, and to even start such organizations on their own, if they so choose.

“The law allows school tuition organizations to be formed to fund any type of private schools--religious or non-religious.  Just because non-religious organizations have not chosen to take advantage of the opportunity as much as religious organizations have does not mean a violation of the Constitution has occurred,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.  “The ACLU and its allies are up in arms simply because religious people are receiving aid, despite the fact that it is private money that the government never touches.”

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.

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Jeremy Tedesco
Jeremy Tedesco
Senior Counsel, Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement
Jeremy Tedesco serves as senior counsel and senior vice president of communications for Alliance Defending Freedom.