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Federal court tosses suit backed by ACLU against Arizona tuition tax credits

Court affirms constitutionality of program, ADF attorneys represent ACSTO

PHOENIX—A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed by ACLU attorneys who sought to have Arizona’s tuition tax credit law declared unconstitutional.

“The ACLU has lost again,” said Alliance Defense Fund attorney Joshua Carden.  “The winners today are Arizona’s schoolchildren.  Like the Arizona Supreme Court in 1999, this court has reaffirmed that the tuition tax credit program is constitutional.”

U.S. District Court Judge Earl Carroll stated in his order today, “The Tuition Tax Credit is a program of ‘true private choice’” and “does not provide taxpayers or students financial incentives which are skewed toward religious schools” as claimed in the lawsuit, Kathleen M. Winn v. J. Elliot Hibbs.

The Arizona statute at issue in the case allows taxpayers to reduce their tax liability by claiming a credit for amounts they have paid to a school tuition organization.

Carroll concluded, “The Tuition Tax Credit is a neutral, secular program whose benefits are available to all Arizona taxpayers and students….  Arizona’s policy of maximizing the choices available to parents is a valid secular purpose.”

“Apparently the ACLU is against parental choice in education.  They only support private choice by people who aren’t religious,” Carden said.  “This court decision makes sense because the state is not giving money to these private schools.  It is merely empowering families to make decisions for themselves.”

ADF attorneys intervened on behalf of the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization and filed a motion to dismiss the case after it was handed back down to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona by the U.S. Supreme Court in June of last year.  ACSTO’s motion was one of three filed in the case.  Today the court granted one of them and dismissed the other two as unnecessary.

“The judge clearly recognized the public good and legitimacy of Arizona’s program,” Carden explained.  “If the ACLU refuses to acknowledge that and decides to appeal this case, we will be there to oppose them and defend this program, which unmistakably benefits everyone.”

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.