In a slap to the face of Catholic and other religious schools, Superior Court Judge John M. Lewis ruled that a privately funded tuition tax-credit program violated the New Hampshire State Constitution. His decision was hailed by Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan, and was a victory for the activists at the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United For Separation of Church and State, who sued to exclude religious schools from the program.
Advocates for the program point out that it was carefully crafted to give tax credits to private-sector business that freely donated to the fund, so as to avoid public funds being diverted to religious schools. In spite of that, Judge Lewis’ ruling stated that, “the government is under no obligation to fund ‘religious’ education. Indeed, the government is expressly forbidden from doing so by the very language of the New Hampshire Constitution,” falsely implying that the program called for government funding of religious education.
By the same reasoning, tax breaks on donations given to non-profit religious organizations would constitute public funding of religion. The secularists at the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Americans United For Separation of Church and State might well like to see that falsehood enshrined in case law, too.
From the Manchester Union Leader:
Charles Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett institute for Public Policy said, “The final decision in this case was always going to come from the Supreme Court, which I’m sure will uphold the law. No education tax credit has ever been struck down by a Supreme Court in any state.
“This ruling is particularly odd,” Arlinghaus said. “The entire program is fine unless a parent by their own choice chooses a religious school. By this logic a program is illegal if neutral and only legal if actively hostile to religion. That’s absurd and I trust the Supreme Court will find it so.”
See also another Union Leader article, Parents, student aid agencies seeking answers after court’s scholarship ruling, where it is revealed that the N.H. Attorney General’s Office plans on appealing the decision to the State Supreme Court.