I explore the landmark Espinoza case on the Catholic School Matters podcast. This case originated in Montana and will be heard at the US Supreme Court in January. It holds the possibility to overturn the dreaded Blaine Amendments and change state funding across the country. The origin was a student scholarship program passed (and surprisingly allowed to become law by the governor) but was challenged by the Department of Revenue. A district court overruled the Department and then the Montana Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional based on the Montana Blaine Amendment separating church and state.
The case has the potential to overthrow all state Blaine amendments and change funding of religious schools across the country. It’s worth your time to learn about the case and implications for the future.
I am joined by Matthew Brower, the Executive Director of the Montana Catholic Conference to give us the facts of the case. These cases don’t originate out of a vacuum and Brower provides the historical context of the case which could be studied for many years. He discusses the political landscape and the surprising nature that a case like this could originate in Montana.
Then I’m joined by attorney Erica Smith of the Institute for Justice, co-counsel on the case, who is preparing the briefs and has been instrumental in the case since 2015. She makes the argument that the state should be neutral in matters of religion, not hostile like in this case. She believes their case is strong and they will win.
This case has raised a flurry of amicus briefs and so I interview one of the authors, Andrea Picciotti-Bayer from the Catholic Foundation. She and I discuss the constitutional implications of the separation of church and state and explains why she and organizations such as the Catholic Foundation are supporting the effort.
It is important for school leaders to prepare for a new reality. As lawmakers and education departments begin to decipher a new educational funding landscape, it’s important for school leaders to consider the implications. In this week’s newsletter, I present some great articles which examine the origins of Blaine Amendments, the arguments for and against overthrowing these amendments, and a look at creating a more just funding environment.
Here is another link to the podcast.