Today the NHCLU, along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU, filed a brief before the New Hampshire Supreme Court addressing a tax-credit scheme passed by the New Hampshire legislature that funds religious schools. The tax-credit 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. Programs such as this one have often been dubbed “neo-vouchers” because they raise the same kinds of legal and policy concerns that school voucher schemes do.
In January 2013, Americans United, the NHCLU, and the ACLU sued on behalf of nine plaintiffs — including clergy, public education advocates, and parents of public school children — asserting that this education tax credit program violates the state constitution because it diverts tax payments to religious schools.
In June 2013, the Strafford County Superior Court agreed, holding the following: “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.”
Our brief before the New Hampshire Supreme Court defends the Strafford County Superior Court’s decision. As the brief explains: “The Tax Credit Program violates both Article 83 of Part II — as the superior court held in its thorough 45-page opinion — and Article 6 of Part I of the New Hampshire Constitution. In an unbroken line of decisions, this Court has made clear that these two articles strictly prohibit the diversion of tax payments — including through tax-credit programs and other such creative schemes — to sectarian education. Under the Court’s decisions, no tax payments at all may be diverted to religious schools unless the funds are restricted to non-religious uses, but the Program has no such restriction.”