Indiana’s school voucher program does not violate the state constitution, a state court ruled January 13.
In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly created the Choice Scholarship Program. Qualifying families receive vouchers, which they may redeem at private schools, both secular and religious. A collection of taxpayers sued, alleging that the program violated three provisions of the Indiana constitution. The Marion County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all three claims.
The court first held that the program did not violate Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution, which requires the state General Assembly to “encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific and agricultural improvement” and to “provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools.” The court reasoned that the imposition of this latter duty did not preclude the legislature from satisfying the first duty through means other than the public school system.
The court then held that the program did not violate Article 1, Section 4, which forbids “compelled support” of houses of worship and other ministries. The court observed that this provision was primarily designed to protect citizens from forced tithing.
Finally, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that the Choice Scholarship Program violated Article 1, Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution, which declares: “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” The court observed that the money in question was not “for the benefit of any religious or theological institution,” but instead for the benefit of parents and children exercising educational choice. Any benefits religious schools received were merely “incidental” to the accomplishment of the state’s educational goals.
Significantly (for Christ-centered colleges and universities and their students), the court observed that a contrary reading of Article 1, Section 6 would jeopardize higher education tuition assistance programs that allow students to direct their aid to religious colleges and universities.
The Alliance Defense Fund and its allied attorneys represent certain of the Christian schools participating in the program. An appeal is expected.
This post originally appeared here.