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A Victory in the War for the Free Exercise of Religion



In Matthew 5:16 it says that Christians are to wear their beliefs like a badge of honor: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Many Christians in America have lived out this command and have sought to raise their children in private religious schools that helped them to impart their faith to their children.


Due to a “Blaine Amendment” that was meant to restrict Catholic influence on state educational systems in Montana, a majority of enrollees in a tax credit scholarship program for funding their children’s education found themselves out of luck as it was determined that the state could not provide funding for these parents to send their children to private religious schools. [1] Since the majority of private schools in the state were religiously affiliated, this rendered the program almost entirely ineffective. [2] The nation has watched with baited-breath to see how the Supreme Court would rule since similar amendments exist in over half of the states in our Union.


Issues of religious liberty have cropped up more and more in recent years as attempts to limit religious expression have increased. Sadly, legal precedent on this issue has remained unclear, leaving the faithful in limbo. As Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote in a concurring opinion, “our Establishment Clause jurisprudence [on religious freedom] is in hopeless disarray.” [3]


Fortunately, a victory was claimed on June 29, 2020 as Justice John Roberts released his majority opinion in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, et al., declaring that parents in states with Blaine Amendments ought to be able to use educational tax credit scholarship program to enroll their children in private religious schools. [4]


As Roberts put it, “The Department's argument that the no-aid [to religious schools] provision actually promotes religious freedom is unavailing because an infringement of First Amendment rights cannot be justified by a State's alternative view that the infringement advances religious liberty.”

Although this ruling ought to be celebrated, Christians need to be prepared for more hostility from the secular movement to push religion out of the public square. As Jesus warned his disciples in Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”


The idea that a religiosity nullifies the legitimacy of education is demonstrated clearly in a tweet from the president of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen García, who complained that “the Espinoza decision narrows the bases on which states may refuse [Betsy Devos’] calls to fund private religious schools.” [5] Some of her later comments in the thread referenced “accountability,” implying that only education approved by the state was of acceptable quality.

This allegation demonstrates her ignorance of the true meaning behind Roberts’ opinion in the Espinoza case. The Supreme Court did not order states to fund private religious schools. They merely said that, if the states were going to make tax credit scholarships available for parents to use at private schools, then they could not discriminate based on how the parents’ religious affiliation was expressed in the private schools that they chose.


García’s mindset is all too common and will likely lead to an increase in the need to defend religious freedom. Christians need to be prepared for the battle to come and to do as it says in Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” This fight is not over and will only get harder as the years go forward. While it is time that we celebrate our victory, we must be aware that the biggest battles have yet to come.


Foundations of Truth hereby waives all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.


[1] “Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue: Op. Below,” SCOTUSBlog (2019), https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/espinoza-v-montana-department-of-revenue/

[2] Lauren Camera, “The Supreme Court’s Far-Ranging Ruling on School Choice,” U.S. News and World Report (June 30, 2020), https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2020-06-30/the-supreme-courts-far-ranging-ruling-on-school-choice

[3] “Rosenberger et al. v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia et al.,” Justia (1994), https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/515/819/case.pdf

[4] “Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, et al.,” SupremeCourt.gov (June 30, 2020), https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/18-1195_g314.pdf

[5] Lily Eskelsen García, Twitter (June 30, 2020), https://twitter.com/Lily_NEA/status/1277983196693528583

Foundations of Truth hereby waive all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.