BJC: States should not have to fund religious schools

Hollman: Supreme Court should reject attacks on ‘no-aid’ provisions

Jan 22, 2020

Media Contact: Cherilyn Crowe / [email protected] / cell: 202.670.5877

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case involving a state constitutional ban on government funding of religion. BJC filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case that said avoiding government funding of religion is a key protection for religious liberty – the law’s distinct treatment of religion keeps government from interfering in the beliefs and practices of religious schools.

BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman provided the following statement at the Supreme Court after today’s arguments:

“States should not have to fund religious schools. Religion is treated in a unique way in constitutional law, both to avoid its establishment by government and to avoid government interference in its free exercise. This special treatment of religion stems from our country’s deep and abiding commitment to religious liberty for all.

The Supreme Court has long recognized that government may not directly fund religious exercise. So it is neither surprising nor discriminatory that Montana’s constitution, like those in other states, protects religious liberty by avoiding even the indirect funding of religion. No-aid provisions ensure that state funds are preserved for state purposes and not used to advance religion.

The Court should reject blanket attacks on no-aid provisions and uphold Montana’s law that preserves public funding for its public schools.”

BJC’s brief was written with Dr. Steven Green, a professor of law at Willamette University and the nation’s leading expert on religious liberty and state constitutions.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the General Synod of the United Church of Christ; and the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), joined BJC’s brief.

Visit for additional information and to read BJC’s brief in this case.



BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) is an 84-year-old religiously based organization working to defend faith freedom for all and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition.



“The distinctiveness of religion (not animus toward any particular religion or religion in general) and importance of religious liberty explain its special treatment in our constitutional tradition.”

“A principle of governmental non-interference in religion, particularly non-interference with internal decisions that affect the faith and mission of a church, is a central theme in the protection of religious liberty.”

“The attack on Montana’s no-aid provision as a remnant of ‘naked religious bigotry’ … misrepresents a long tradition of non-interference with religion, undermines the complementary nature of religious liberty provisions in our national and state polity, and disregards the distinctiveness of religion.”

“Petitioners’ demand for a state program for equal funding ignores the distinctiveness of religion and the various ways religious education operates to promote faith formation. It ignores the relationship between support and accountability in public programs and the limits on governmental interference in religion.”