NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Voucher Proponents Hail Supreme Court Decision

June 13, 2001

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the First Amendment does not require government to discriminate against religious persons, organizations and ideas. Such an interpretation might well foreshadow some future decision allowing school vouchers to be used for education at religious institutions.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority in the Court's 6-3 decision. The case, Good News Bible Club v. Milford, concerned permission for a Christian youth group to meet after school hours in public-school facilities.

  • Justice Thomas reasoned that because Milford, N.Y., permits non-religious groups to use school grounds to "promote the moral and character development of children," it cannot exclude religious groups from doing so.
  • The Court rejected the argument that the constitutional prohibition of establishment of religion required Milford to exclude the Good News Club -- and reaffirmed that the equal treatment of religion is not the same as establishing religion.
  • Last year, in Mitchell v. Helms, the Court permitted the government to provide secular educational assistance to needy children attention parochial schools.
  • Judicial experts say the Good News decision provides further support for the constitutionality of important educational reforms such as school vouchers.

Source: Richard W. Garnett (Notre Dame Law School), "A Supreme Court Ruling Bodes Well for School Vouchers," Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2001.

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