Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue

No. 18–1195. Argued January 22, 2020—Decided June 30, 2020 The Montana Legislature established a program that grants tax credits to those who donate to organizations that award scholarships for private school tuition. To reconcile the program with a provision of the Montana Constitution that bars government aid to any school “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination,” Art. X, §6(1), the Montana Department of Revenue promulgated “Rule 1,” which prohibited families from using the scholarships at religious schools. Three mothers who were blocked by Rule 1 from using scholarship funds for their children’s tuition at Stillwater Christian School sued the Department in state court, alleging that the Rule discriminated on the basis of their religious views and the religious nature of the school they had chosen. The trial court enjoined Rule 1. Reversing, the Montana Supreme Court held that the program, unmodified by Rule 1, aided religious schools in violation of the Montana Constitution’s no-aid provision. The Court further held that the violation required invalidating the entire program.Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue