The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Monday against a challenge to tax aid to religious schools in Arizona.


In the 5 to 4 decision [PDF], the court ruled that taxpayers cannot challenge government scholarship programs that direct money to religious activities. The Supreme Court said the taxpayers who challenged the program lacked standing to bring the case.

"This misguided ruling betrays the public school system by directing tax dollars to religious schools," Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said. "The court, with the full support of the Obama administration, has slammed the courthouse door in the face of Americans who don’t want their tax dollars to subsidize religion."

Arizona allowed residents to send up to $500 to a scholarship organization rather than pay that money to the state in taxes. Nearly 92 percent of the funds collected have gone for tuition at religious schools.

The Obama administration argued in favor of the program and the Solicitor General’s Office at the U.S. Department of Justice requested and was granted 10 minutes to argue in favor of the plan.

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Kagan wrote that "tax breaks are means of accomplishing the same government objective – to provide financial support to select individuals or organizations."

"Appropriations and tax subsidies are readily interchangeable," Kagan said. "What is a cash grant today can be a tax break tomorrow."

The taxpayers who challenged the program said it violated the separation of church and state. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona.

"Today’s decision ignores precedent, defies logic and undermines the role of the courts in preserving the core constitutional principle that government may not subsidize religion," said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU.