Arizona shouldn’t use tax dollars to fund religious education, says the American Humanist Association

  • post Type / Members and partners
  • Date / 23 September 2010

The American Humanist Association (AHA) today filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court against an Arizona statute that allows taxpayer funded scholarships to be awarded on the basis of religion. In its amicus brief on Winn versus the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO) , the AHA argues that the state law violates the US Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of a religion.

Arizona created a program in which dollar-for-dollar income tax credits are granted to individuals contributing to school tuition organizations (STOs). The STOs use the taxpayer funded donations to fund scholarships for students to attend private schools.

However, when awarding the scholarships, the statute permits STOs to specify which schools a recipient attends, thereby denying students true school choice. In recent years, over 80 percent of the scholarships dollars went to private religious schools.

“STOs should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion in awarding taxpayer-funded scholarships,” said Bob Ritter, staff attorney at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the AHA’s legal arm.

The AHA argues in its amicus brief that because the STO program is a conduit for funding private education with tax dollars, the Arizona statute violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against government establishment of religion to the extent that scholarships are used to fund private religious education.

The amicus brief asks the Supreme Court to affirm the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the scholarship program violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The American Humanist Association advocates for the rights and viewpoints of Humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America. AHA is a founder member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

A PDF copy of the AHA’s Winn vs ACSTO amicus brief can be found here.

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