LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has led a 21-state coalition urging the United States Supreme Court to protect religious liberty in school-choice programs. The brief argues that the U.S. Constitution forbids state school-choice programs from discriminating against religious schools.
“We cannot allow states to discriminate against religious schools,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Constitution requires respect for religious liberty and parents must be empowered to make the best educational decisions for their children, whether it be a public or private school, secular or religious, and their choice should not be limited by their family’s financial capabilities, zip code or faith.”
In this case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a federal district court’s decision rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims and allowing discrimination against religious schools to continue. In March, Rutledge successfully led an 18-state brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review of the lower court’s decision.
Arkansas has a record of success partnering with private schools, which includes religious schools, to increase access to educational options. For example, the Succeed Scholarship Program, enacted in 2015, provides private-school scholarships to students with disabilities, students in foster care, and other students. Religious schools are important participants in the Succeed Scholarship Program. In 2021, Arkansas enacted a new tax-credit scholarship program that does not discriminate against religious schools. This program provides private-school tuition funds for children from families with incomes equal to or less than 200% of the federal poverty level.
The Arkansas-led brief was joined by Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.