Today the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State welcome a state court decision that said a tuition tax-credit program violates the New Hampshire Constitution.
Ruling in favor of the three civil liberties groups, the Strafford County, N.H., Superior Court held that the state’s Education Tax Credit Program is unconstitutional because it diverts tax payments to religious schools.
The Court explained: “New Hampshire students, and their parents, certainly have the right to choose a religious education. However, 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.”
The three civil liberties groups sued on behalf of nine plaintiffs, including clergy, public education advocates and parents of public school children. They asserted that the tax-credit program will primarily benefit private religious schools, which are free to use the tax funds for religious instruction and discrimination. The program allows businesses to receive an 85 percent tax credit for donations made to K-12 “scholarship organizations,” which pay for tuition at religious and other private schools.
Barbara R. Keshen, staff attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, stated: “We believe that everyone has the right to practice according to his or her own religious beliefs, but taxpayers should not bear the expense of educating school children about religious beliefs that they don’t share. This is a core constitutional principle that the Court has upheld today.”