The Supreme Court’s Collapsing Center on Religion

A case over vouchers threatens to breach the wall separating church and state.

Comments: 223

  1. Given that we accept the payment of taxes to support the education of children who are not our own, and expect even those who have never had children to pay such taxes, it seems he best solution is to let the tax money follow the child as long as the child is attending a school that meets the educational standards of the State in question. There are those who will say they do not want their tax dollars going to pay for Religious Indoctrination. Why should anyone's tax dollars go to pay for any sort of Indoctrination, you might ask. When I was in school I was told two things that were not true and never had been true: That our elected Politicians had our best interests at heart and that there is Justice for all. The ongoing farrago in the Senate proves the first one false. The imprisoning of those who are actually innocent but could not afford a private defense lawyer and so had to settle for an overworked Public Defender, proves the second one is a terrible lie. If Religious indoctrination bothers you that much, then just fund the Religious School for the fraction of the day that the students are taught non-religious subjects. If those who are so adamant about Separation of Church and State had not forced "Progressive Education" on our Public Schools to where very little learning goes on in many of them, we would not have this problem.

  2. @John Brown Myth supported by a distortion of the facts. If keeping public money from religious schools is not as simple as separation of church and state, then there is no truth. I have worked in parochial schools, both good and bad. It depends on the makeup of the neighborhood and staff. I give to some private/religious schools of my time and effort. That is my choice. I want no government entity using my tax dollars to subjugate the purpose of public education to the narrow teachings of any sect, religious or otherwise. It's called separation of church and state. The most upstanding church organizations don't want public funds.

  3. @slowaneasy They didn't pay any in !

  4. @slowaneasy What Myth. Say students spend 5 hours learning what every students learns in Public Schools and then one hour on religious activities. They get 5/6ths of the funding the State pays for a Public School student where is the problem ?

  5. I am not sure the conservatives realize the potential repercussions of their argument that the state not giving them money means that "their free exercise is being penalized." This sounds like an argument more similar to that in European countries, where the state supports all religious institutions out of the public till in order to protect their free exercise. This has led to resentment of religious institutions and their role in society. As a former public school teacher who dealt with children from voucher schools coming into high school with undiagnosed learning disabilities, wacky understandings of science and an inability to sit in mixed-gender classrooms, I certainly resent the role of religious voucher schools in society. Some of my students were unlikely to ever graduate high school because it would take so long for them to be properly diagnosed and accommodated after years of neglect. Depending on the outcome of this case, soon people in all fifty states might begin to feel a similar resentment to mine.

  6. @Thomas Watson I think the "conservatives" want to establish a theocracy - Christian of course - and realize full well what they are about.

  7. @Thomas Watson Ahh yes...the industrialized world begins to move on and the US steps back in time. Religious freedom is really religious privilege. I agree that these vouchers won't mean diddly when the kids are not smart enough to compete in future economies, but that will be some "liberal elite's" fault, not one of the person in the mirror. If approved, watch the christian screaming that will occur when their taxes have to fund Islamic Madrasas down the street from their religious-privilege school. If catholics want tax-payer funds, then tax the church to fund their equal treatment under the law. Enough with religious privileges.

  8. I have felt the resentment you talk about for 50 years and I have seen this issue become more confused and more anti constitutional as the years wear on. From the moment they added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance (making it a prayer instead of a secular pledge) I have refused to say it. But I am a minority that is becoming smaller as time goes on. The idea of a secular government has been lost in the insanity of our Fake News age. But the wisdom and warning of the founders is still as valid now as it was then. We are violating their constitution everyday and we are imperiling the freedom that our government was designed to protect. We have become insane as a culture and we know nothing about who we really are. And until we all regain our senses we are all in danger.

  9. Permitting religious schools to take money from public vouchers and charter school initiatives will be another reason to oppose both for me.

  10. "Religious freedom." A new mantra to go along with "job creators," "entitlements," and "death tax," to name a few. A major move towards theocracy and the ending of public education as we know it. Charter schools were only the intermediate step. The most activist Court in history is, once again, going to ignore precedent and reasoned Constitutional analysis in order to push their right wing agenda. Forget Roberts, the Chief Justice who is supposedly so concerned about the public's perception of the federal judiciary. Many of us have gotten it right for years- the Supreme Court majority is nothing more than an extension of the Republican Party (corrupt and cultish as it is) and its benefactors.

  11. @Stew Exactly correct. The right-wing is accomplishing two goals: throw a bone to the angry know-nothing "base" while allowing public money to be diverted to their patrons' private hands via "school choice." The idea of the impartial SC, interpreting our majestic Constitution and settling good-faith disputes with only their sharpest legal acumen is a child's fairy tale.

  12. @Stew In matters concerning religion, it is rather obtuse to refer to such issues as political party matters. The fact is that the majority of members of the supreme court belong to one religion. They are inclined to follow their religion and not the constitution, or settled law, in deciding the cases before them. What would the founding fathers have thought about a supreme court dominated by a religion that was anathema at the time this country was founded?

  13. @Stew You don't need God on your side when you have the Supreme Court working for you. They will win more of these cases as time goes by. Sad state for America to be sure.

  14. Congress and the courts are working towards an establishment of religion. For example, tax dollars are withheld from clinics here and abroad that provide abortions, or even discuss them objectively with patients, when most if not all objections to abortion are based on religious views. When tax dollars are involved, preventing a physician from exercising first-amendment rights to talk about abortion is OK, and funding religious indoctrination despite first amendment prohibitions against an establishment of religion is also OK. If the establishment clause is only about the government treating all religions equally, I hope Muslims try to fund private schools using the Quran as a textbook with tax-payer funded vouchers.

  15. Absolutely! Just point out that Muslim schools would be entitled to taxpayers' dollars and see how the claim of religious liberty is applied by its fanatical supporters in this case!

  16. @DL And Satanists should have equal treatment.

  17. @DL Orthodox yeshivas are already of concern due to the extremely poor education that occurs at some.

  18. Like the Trinity Lutheran decision before it (which overrode the existing case law of Locke v. Davey, without literally any constitutional backing), this is clearly a case of the conservative wing of the supreme court going against their own origination interpretations of the constitution to fabricate a new expanded right of religious institutions to have access to American taxpayer's money.

  19. This program was designed for the purpose it achieved: to distribute privately donated funds to religious schools. This case involves an objection to the fact that that program was shut down because it was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. I often agreed with Justice Kennedy on the misclassification of neutral action as acts of establishment, but there is no doubt at all here. In fact, this contrived program to make the state deliver private donations was 100% dedicated to that political purpose, and it creates an impermissible entanglement of the state with religion.

  20. For the last 30 years the right wing donors that now control the agenda of the GOP have been successfully recruiting religious zealots to their side with the strategy of throwing them bones via court appointments of judges inclined to outlaw abortion and defy the separation of church and state in education. Education is important to the fundamentalists if they have their children enrolled in religious schools, but what they really want is for public schools to enforce their religious beliefs- vouchers will not pacify them, and for the political operatives this is a good thing. There's lots of bones left lure these mostly rural voters to support their candidates. Should the Supreme Court ever strike down Roe, it might become hard to get these people to keep voting against their economic interests. Given the greater influence of rural voters in this country, about the only thing the rest of us can do to balance the playing field is to at least boycott the sponsors of FOX news and use our power of the purse in every way possible to strike back at the right wing plutocrats that are pulling the strings here.

  21. No, that’s not the only thing we can do, Roberts et al should know that there are graver consequences to their rulings. No more separation of religion and state, granting business more rights than citizens, formally installing Trump as monarch - refuting the basic semblance of American values - boycotts won’t be the end all of this battle. They are declaring war on America. And the Second Revolutionary War will be nastier than the first.

  22. This situation is the effect of liberal voters not voting. And they will do it again in November. And they will whine and demonstrate in December. It seemed all the progressives do is whine. No purity no vote. A real winning position.

  23. @Robert Black Is that why the Democrats swept the last election? Or maybe winning the popular vote for president?

  24. Not to generalize it overly, but I was struck most by the column’s touching a human element (hugely problematic to me) with political and social over wrappings. That human element is psychologically self serving for a distortion of equality to wrongly justify. Greenhouse notes as no one should get it, if I cannot get it. My adaptation of the citation may seem to trivialize or generalize the Montana case discussed in the column. But, I see there is a possibly dangerous progressivism at the core. The concept would be: You can also get it, only if I can get it, otherwise, no one should get it. Competitions over public funds to be drawn to me too as if a new MeToo movement is another possible element. Many justifications, polarized and wrought, can follow in all cases.

  25. At the moment it is conservative christian religions that are determined to establish primacy in government. That makes sense because religion, especially conservative religion, views government as subordinate. All religions have a conservative faction - not just Baptists, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholics, but Sunnis, Shias, Orthodox Jews, and Hindus as well. Once conservative religion in general gets a foothold there must follow a struggle for dominance of a specific religion. Such a trajectory cannot end well.

  26. We can already see the end of the beginning and it is anything but well. But religion has taken over government because it has taken over the dominate political party. And that political party is dominate because the opposing party is weak. It is the political weakness of the fragmented and centrist Democratic Party that has created the vacuum which the religious right has filled. If the Democratic Party would stop fighting pointless political identity battles and go back to its secular job oriented New Deal roots it could again become the dominant political party and move the country back toward the separation of church and state that is required for fair government. Theocracy can only take hold in an environment of fear and desperation. It is the job of the Democrats to rise above the fray and present an image of stability and security, to build a wall between the American people and fear. If they do that they can save the constitutional order. If they shrink from the challenge we will become the next Iran with a Supreme Court of Ayatollahs telling us what God wants us to do and running an inquisition for those who disobey. The clock is ticking.

  27. @syfredrick Christians were COMMANDED not to conflate religion and politics and the command came from a person they view as part of the deity. There are multiple very good reasons for this: 1) It allows all of us of different religions to live together peacefully. 2) Religious ethics cannot make the compromises that civics must make. (see prohibition) 3) God of the gospel & especially the Prodigal Son, gave us enough free will to reject him. Like the Prodigal Son, we reject him. At that point we are hell bound or so Christianity says. But God doesn't want that. So he provides a way for us to find our way back to him - that allows us to keep our free will. That's the Passion. So exercising our free will, in pursuit of the truth, is critical to each of us finding our way back. Much of the Gospels are about how to seek truth, what truth looks like, what to avoid, and so on. The hope is like the Prodigal Son, we find our way back. There's no putting a gun to the head and telling a person to believe, there is, instead encouragement to seek the truth, and it will set you free. Secular government makes it much more likely that we will be free to exercise our free will and freely seek out truth, and like the Prodigal Son, make our way back. That's the dynamic the Christian God wants. This business of conflating church and state is, from a christian point of view, seemingly satanic. Religion coopted by something evil. This can't end good.

  28. An entity that is tax-exempt should receive no additional help from taxpayers. Pretty simple.

  29. @KenF This is a really good point. If religious institutions are entitled to share equally in the benefits of public funding, shouldn't they also be obligated to share equally in the burdens of paying the taxes that create that funding?

  30. @KenF Are you joking? Tax exempt entities get taxpayer money all the time. Universities, hospitals, art museums, botanical gardens, nursing homes, historic sites etc etc. Are those all supposed to be cut off from taxpayer money?

  31. @Ecce Homo Religious organizations are non-profits, and I think the average church, temple, synagogue, or mosque has a stronger claim to being a bona fide non-profit than a lot of non-religious non-profits, like universities, hospitals, big art museums etc where the executives can make >$1 million a year. And what about high ticket cost art institutions are non-profits too. MoMA's ticket cost is $25, should they be a non-profit? It is a double-standard to oppose the tax exemption for religious institutions and not other non-profits.

  32. If you like the idea of religious schools receiving public money, you would love Florida. We have greatly expanded the voucher program. It is a law that counties must share education money with religious schools, PRIVATE SCHOOLS. The rules are not the same though. Instruction is not the same. Testing is not the same. It allow corporations to donate to these schools and deduct these donations from their taxes. Fifth Third Bank was part of this funding until they found out that the schools they were donating to were allowed to be selective of the students they accepted. No LBGTQ students allowed for instance. Is this the kind of public education you advocate for?

  33. @Robert Black I’m betting other states have similar voucher programs too. It’s past time to tax religious groups/ schools and churches/synagogues and mosques. Not a chance of that happening though in our soon to be theocracy. With Trump about to be anointed “king”, with his acquittal from the crime everyone KNOWS he is guilty of, the future is grim. Vote like the words of the Constitution depend on it, because they do.

  34. @Robert Black is this true?...

  35. @Jim Yes, it's true. And Wells Fargo just ended voucher funding for the same reason.

  36. We are all forced to pay attention to the Supreme Court. After all, it is . . . there . . . and it keeps making pronouncements on cases. But at least the excellent Ms. Greenhouse gets paid for paying such attention. Good for her, because it must be a very difficult job to cover an institution whose majority abandoned all pretense of political impartiality with Bush v. Gore and all pretense of economic impartiality with Citizens United. Rather like maintaining a perfectly straight journalistic face while reporting events on the other side of Alice's Looking-Glass.

  37. The Supreme Court has a long history of stupidity and political gamesmanship. The Dredd Scott decision in 1858 was a nice touch from an out of touch Court that thought they would substitute their will for that of the people. That decision guaranteed a civil war and a war was what was necessary to over turn their decision and write the new amendments that would contain their insanity in the future. But the courts blindness has continued with Bush v Gore, Citizens United, etc. These are all rulings that substitute the courts will for that if the people and force ever more drastic measures by the people to over come. The court is now willing to violate the clear black letter law of the constitution in its attempt to bring religion into a secular constitution where it does not belong. But the court can be changed and these decisions can be changed if the people will it. The court is obviously an anachronistic flawed idea that should be abandoned and the fact that the Republicans have packed the court with religious conservatives is s case in point. The court no longer has any function because it is just a device used by the Senate to rewrite the law in a subversive way. So how can this be improved in the future? Understand that the court has always been political and not neutral and legislate an equal number of conservatives and liberals on it. Raise the number of justices to 10 so that split decisions have no power. Force the court to think outside of political boundaries.

  38. The state has a fundamental, compelling interest, in educating its population. If it does not take that interest seriously it will not endure. While I hold all religions equally suspect, they certainly have the right to extol their own slant on the people they control. But religions, at least for now, in this country, are not the state (interesting to speculate which one would win control). Religious educational materials which slant the narrative of the topic to the viewpoint of the sect is not beneficial to the state (unless a theocracy). A secular state must, if it will survive, have control of the content and administration of education that does not include the bias of any religion. The Supremes need to determine whether their oath to the Constitution ( the state) overrides their commitment to their religion. JFK did this, surely others can too.

  39. And the war against America's greatest invention, public education for all, free, without the taint of religious indoctrination, continues. You cannot have a country dominated by a few insanely rich oligarchs without creating a populace brainwashed by religion. For the record, I am an atheist. I recognize that there is no such thing as a supernatural God, I recognize that Jesus was a mythic character much in the mold of the ancient Gods who "lived" on Mt. Olympus. I grew up in a place, New England in the 1950's, where to admit that was to be shunned, and I have no doubt that as more and more money is devoted to destroying the public for the advance of the private (wealth), those days will return. Hugh

  40. @Hugh Massengill I could agree more!

  41. @Sam Marcus I say "Freedom of religion is fine with me," so long as I get my "Freedom from religion!"

  42. Thanks for the Sunday school lesson but atheists have always had a hard time in the Puritan utopia called America. Our most influential founder was Thomas Paine who influenced Thomas Jefferson and supported George Washington at Valley Forge. He was the atheist who risked everything to help America start the world over again. He was shunned in both England and America and deserted in his time of need by the country he had help come into being. He died without friends and only six people came to his funeral. But his spirit is the thing that we call “the Spirit of 76”, it is the ideology that animated the revolution and the constitution and it is the thing that modern Americans have forgotten. We are simply going through a spiritual crisis that has been a recurring theme in American history. “These are the times that try men’s souls” and I am glad to live in them. I am glad I have the opportunity to raise my voice for the atheism of our greatest founder and the soul of the American Dream.

  43. '“The center cannot hold,” Yeats wrote in “The Second Coming.” He didn’t have the United States Supreme Court in mind when he wrote that line. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit.' Indeed, and a slippery slope: could a Trump University revive with a voucher system waiting at the bottom?

  44. This case involves more than the issue of separation of church and state. Vouchers, whether used to fund religious or secular private schools, divert tax money from public schools. In a society with citizens of all religious faiths and no religion, only public schools can offer a neutral ground to educate everybody. If the voucher movement succeeds in eviscerating the public school system, every religious and a variety of secular groups will compete for tax dollars to fund their sectarian views, further undermining the sense of community which plays a vital role in preserving democracy. The notion that religious freedom entails a right to tap the public coffers to propagate one's religious doctrines would have astonished James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, but not George Orwell, who would have classified it as an example of "newspeak."

  45. @James Lee Well said! Excellent and clear points in this debate.

  46. In religion, problems arise when evangelism is a driving force: Christians believe they are compelled to convert the rest of us, by any and all means permitted by the times. This is considered "a right." Perhaps religion is just another battlefield in the libertarian war on communities and society. All through modern history, the libertarian argument is that joint actions that limit the rights of an individual are the work of mobs. Trade unions are "mobs." Even the government is a "mob." Hard to square that thinking with letting slip the dogs of Churches and of Citizens United.

  47. The introduction of this article is very important, highlighting that USA Today has fallen for the lies by placing "Religious Freedom" in the headline. The phrase has been repeated so many times that it is becoming part of the lexicon despite the fact that it essentially means "Christian advantage." Whether you are Christian or not, shouldn't the truth reign in a democratic society? I hope the religious understand that it should.

  48. @Anthony They want the truth to reign, all right--their "truth". Because as we have all learned, there are "alternative facts".

  49. As ever seems the case, the "freedom" that religions want boils down to state support -- either in terms of access to secular money or special rules allowing them to behave in ways that would otherwise be forbidden. In other words, it is not THEIR freedom they are arguing for, it is a claim on everyone ELSE's freedom.

  50. Nothing could be more clear than what our founding fathers wrote about the place of religion in government. Their secular constitution says it has no place. A government using taxpayer dollars to pay the tuition at a private religious school which teaches religious beliefs and religious based revisionist science and history cannot be considered anything but unconstitutional. If a parent wants to protect their children from truth, they can pay for that themselves.

  51. @David Bible The Constitution says there is "No Establishment of Religion," which I (and others) read to mean that the USA cannot have an official church, like the Church of England. "Nothing could be more clear" is an unfounded claim in this context.

  52. @David Bible Well, yes. But do you actually think Republicans care about the Constitution? They have happily installed a GOP dictatorship and ensured NOTHING Trump does is impeachable. Don't be surprised when the 2020 election is cancelled because Trump thinks, "It's in the country's best interest for me to remain in power until I die and at that point Ivanka will become queen. In fact, I am simply going to jail Democrats, close newspapers, and disband Congress. I am the supreme leader. I can do anything I want."

  53. These are obviously unconstitutional laws on their face and there is no reasonable reading of the constitution that can say otherwise. The problem we have is that officially, the constitution says whatever the Supreme Court says it does. So to rewrite the constitution all that is required is that a bunch of religious looneys be put on the court. No constitutional convention is necessary, no amendments need to be voted on. It is the quickest way to subvert the country and it the subversion that the rest of us have stood back and allowed to happen. We now have bipartisan regimes which are enabling the court to rewrite the constitution one decision at a time. It is a slow but deliberate drift that is outside of the power of the electorate to halt. Supreme Court decisions are essentially above the law because they are the foundation of law. Congress itself cannot write a law that over turns SC reinterpretation. The court has essentially become a new legislative branch of government that is above all others. Theocratic decisions from this level are as unassailable as the will of the Ayatollah in Iran. All theocracy must ultimately be rooted in the court system and we are seeing the beginning of a religious court on the Federal level. This influence has already changed our relationships to the rest of the largely secular world and we are joining with the non secular world in a variety of political and military ways. It can happen here. It already has.

  54. While I am tempted to screed away about my view of the issues raised, let me simply affirm that Ms. Greenhouse is a treasure, and I am so very grateful to be able to read her well-informed and well-constructed columns whenever they appear. Thank you, Ms. Greenhouse, for writing them.

  55. And I would add a plea for her to gratify us with her insights at least once a week! Desperate times call for heroic measures!

  56. @Michael Agree 100%, 1000%, 1,000,000%. Linda Greenhouse strikes me as the most intelligent and skillful writer on the Times’ entire staff of opinion writers, and should be given space to analyze all manner of subjects, judicial or otherwise.

  57. @ex-pat Pat Amen.

  58. If one reads the oral argument transcript and some of the briefs, the argument at the Court turns out to be particularly convoluted. The Court is tasked with understanding the motive behind legislative, constitutional convention and court actions. The justices seemed to understand that in order to remove all possible "taint", the result was to remove the benefit of a voucher from all parents (vouchers went to the schools indirectly). It was the blanket nature of the removal that got the argument going on the history of anti-Catholic animus. Ms. Greenhouse is correct that the idea of "well, maybe a smidge of teeny weeny support that might go to a religious school indirectly" seemed to resonate with some justices, but others did not buy in. This case goes to show that a tiny minority, striking with the right resonant message at the right time, can have a huge social effect.

  59. The desegregation of the public school system led to an expansion of Christian schools. The word Christian in many instances was actually a euphemism for a return to segregation, though I don't think this was the case prior to the desegregation of public schools. Choice is a right, but it should not also be a privilege. If private schools (religious or otherwise) are to be supported by vouchers, then they should be subject to the same rules as public schools. They are not and therefore they are less expensive to operate than the public schools.

  60. @Robert Scull I couldn’t agree more. A family member left private school education because the teacher pay in public schools was higher (think about that for a moment) and because the restrictive curriculum took away from her teaching freedoms. If you want equal treatment for your religious school you get equal treatment all the way down to the return to the Ronald Reagan ketchup is a vegetable standards we just returned to thanks to the GOP.

  61. @Robert Scull So true. For example, they must accept any student who applies, including students with disabilities and students whose home language is not English, providing educational services to those students that meet the same standards that public schools must meet.

  62. At a time when public education was still being funded, I got a perfectly good education, judging by my ability to keep up in college with graduates of elite boarding schools. And this was in a small factory town in New England, not on the Main Line out of Philadelphia, or Beverly Hills, or some such. It is criminal that we are not giving our children the same opportunity now. How about the religious freedom, not to mention educational opportunities, of people who choose NOT to be a "Christian"? How much more of our lives is being compromised by pandering to these "Christians"?

  63. This will impact Ohio in a big way. It will reinforce the move to becoming a red state. Families here, especially Catholics are big proponents of parochial schools. Almost all of the money from Ohio's main tuition voucher programs - 97 percent of it - flows to private religious schools.Christian schools, as expected, receive the bulk -- more than $140 million in state tax dollars a year. And Catholic and other Christian schools in Cleveland are the biggest winners, thanks to a Cleveland-only voucher program that was the first in the state when it started in 1996. Who uses state voucher dollars at which schools will be a major part of the debate this spring as the Ohio legislature considers a bill to expand Ohio's private school tuition aid to more middle class families. The House and Ohio Senate are at odds here on how to shrink the programs, due to a flawed metric that defines "low performing" schools. It is now a back door to funneling money to families at any (high) income level, subsidizing their child's parochial education. As a result, the number of schools from which parents are now eligible to pull their kids -- and send to them to a private schools – is more than double last year's. The number will go from just less than 500 to 1,200 in the next academic year. Surprise. It will bankrupt the public school districts and destroy secular education. Just what the "religious right" wanted all along. This is the definition of "self-fulfilling prophecy."

  64. @USNA73 It’s also what Libertarians, who have taken over the Republican Party, want.

  65. @USNA73 Agree. I live in Ohio. It’s school funding was found unconstitutional but never remedied. Many charter schools did a horrible job without consequences, underperforming poor public schools. Charter schools could cherry pick students to avoid difficult children, were not required to test the students, etc. worst then some of the religious schools were the for profit schools. They hid their finances from the public and skimmed profits oof the back of the students and public schools. Disgraceful

  66. @Kb Ayn Rand has no place in pubic education. The single most important element that distinguished America from the rest of the world was our embrace of a public education for all since 1821.

  67. "The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it". (Billy Graham Feb 1981 Parade Magazine) I would go further to say that evangelical/fundamentalist Christian leadership has a vested interest in the Political Right in order "to manipulate it". Face it, the conservative Christian movement is also a massive voting block. It elected Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz. There is noticeable connection between conservative religion and our public education system. Of the 20 states that spend the least on public education, 17 are solidly Republican. Yes also voting block! The Republican Party and the conservative Christian movement share many of the same interests. That interest includes the favoring of Christian faith based private education in order to preserve their power base. A strong public education system threatens this hold on our political system and the social fabric in Red States. The concept of Separation of Church and State is under attack!

  68. What people do on their own time is their own business. As long as their activities do not directly harm others, go for it. However, no one who has read history will deny the tendency of religious adherents, once they have manipulated society into recognizing how special they are, to credit their own specious assertions that they should be free in the name of their deity to intimidate and coerce. Back when reality was sheer guesswork, educating children that fairy tales were the truth was only one among many sad choices. Ignorant of consequences, multiple societies assigned education to those whose edification agendas were merged with their calls to spread their "faith." Elsewhere today, an author worries about the magnified impact of the Coronavirus in a country where so many citizens have now deny science and so deprive their children of needed inoculations for measles and other diseases. Although the Christians' origin story, along with the hierarchy of deities and fellow travelers, might actually be true, meaning that those of us who don't believe will suffer dire post-life consequences, temporal consequences will be suffered not only by those who appear to think themselves purer than science but also by so many they eventually infect. I was schooled by Catholics. I know more about seraphim than how my digestive system works. Subsidizing such a pernicious waste of children's time subordinates government to religion, which hasn't worked yet. You could look it up.

  69. @Jack Mahoney Well said. More stupid things have been done throughout history b/o religion, sex, and love (probably in that order) than all other reasons combined.

  70. And we wonder why we've become so obviously divided a nation and too actively hostile politically. We're perpetuating and increasingly supporting the very schisms that defeat the sense of shared citizenship required to advance as a nation. Our Constitution was certainly intended to be fairly and reasonably interpreted and applied to varying circumstances. In doing so, however, we're losing sight of its straightforward basic principles and contorting its meanings such that it becomes very different in meaning and effect. Increasingly and more openly, justices with avowed biases and agendas, despite their protestations, do not serve us - the nation as a whole - well. Rather, they advocate for the causes that divide us even further.

  71. Another great piece by Linda Greenhouse, explaining quite clearly what is a complicated issue. Since she quoted William Yeats' famous poem, she might have ended, as the poem did, with the question: "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

  72. The relentless drive to use undefined phrases like religious freedom and religious liberty to stretch the constitutional mandate to separate church and state has its parallel in the present Republican reinterpretation of the Constitution to condone any presidential action, turning our Constitution into a playground for legal semantics and fanciful logic.

  73. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion not freedom from religion. As long as the recipient is free to use the voucher in secular or parochial schools I see no problem. The greater problem is the reduction in funding for public schools, while I strongly support quality public education, I would like to see more of the money spent on teacher compensation and less money spent on administrators and bureaucracy. The best way to “social justice” is quality education for all.

  74. @T Smith Au contraire. As a lawyer, I feel duty-bound to inform you that the Constitution does indeed provide for freedom from religion: "Congress shall make no law RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The anti-establishment clause is directed precisely at keeping government free from religion.

  75. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is the issue before the Court. The First Amendment protects citizens from a State Establishment of Religion. The Establishment Clause was set in the context of the Church of England, the Established Church of the Monarchy, with the Mother Country’s limitations on the civil rights of Catholics and Jews, limitations overcome early in Maryland, with its significant Catholic population. Using tax money for vouchers for parochial religious education raises the issue of an Establishment of the Catholic or other Church in the State, whether or not a private citizen should feel her rights are not affected to freely choose whether or not to worship. The Freedom of Religion and the Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment are separate. So, the issue before the Court is not whether or not one or more otherwise neutral persons are OK with the vouchers, in that they feel uninhibited in their own religion or its lack. Rather, the issue is whether there appears in the law to be an element of state sponsorship of any particular religion.

  76. @T Smith What if that "religious education" affects, for example, the science taught in these schools? Do we want public tax funds supporting notions like the earth was created in a few days, is a couple thousand years old, contraception is evil, and we should expect Jesus's return to the planet any day now? Religion almost always entails belief in the supernatural, and therein lies a problem. When it comes to belief in the supernatural, anything goes? Homosexuality is sinful, God won't allow destructive climate change, it's impossible to reach heaven unless you're one of us...the list is endless. Our Constitution contains no mention of any god, and the framers prohibited any religious test for public office. They were quite wary of government supporting religion. So should we be.

  77. “Religious education serves a purpose, inculcating religious values and preserving religious traditions. A parochial school is not just another neighborhood school down the block.” When I was growing up, I had plenty of Catholic friends whose parents wouldn’t have dreamed of putting them into any of the parochial schools, not just because they generally had a poor reputation for the quality of teaching (particularly from the nuns,) and low academic standards, and an extremely “parochial” worldview, but from what we teenagers could discern, they seemed to have a disproportionately large number of students whose parents sent them there for disciplinary reasons. (if that failed, they were off to military academies, like Donald Trump) I received an excellent public school education in the 50s and 60s and find the current judicial attempts to give special treatment and taxpayer dollars to religious schools of any stripe to be unconscionable and frightening.

  78. I wish to respond to this common trope. When I went to catholic schools in the 50s and 60s, our education easily equaled or exceeded public schools. Most nuns attended post graduate courses in summer. Many of my high school teachers held more than one masters degree. From first grade through catholic(Jesuit) university, I was exposed to an open and largely humanistic version of the catholic faith. I owe much to wonderful, kind, intelligent women who taught me much. Subsequent events caused me, many years later, to have fundamental differences with today’s Catholic Church. I no longer actively participate in organized religion. However, my spiritual self is strong because of my education at the hands of wonderful teachers.

  79. I am bothered by the words of Justice Gorsuch: “...and general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise, playground or not”. My worry is that the real message is that it will be ok to discriminate against others based on religious belief, involving things much more important than playgrounds.

  80. There will be many bad things that come from allowing public funds in private schools. First, it subsidizes those with higher incomes, and drains from the bank of funds that might go to needy public schools. Second, it breaks down standards for education. There is nothing to prevent private schools from including totally false curriculum in their classrooms. But perhaps this will come back to bite the religious right, that is if this whole mess is in any way authentic and principled. I wonder how it will go when the publicly funded private madrases or the Timothy Leary Academy for Space Science starts demanding equal treatment and consideration and claiming that other beliefs are an assault on their religious freedom.

  81. @Brian I am against any educational funding system that "drains from the bank of funds that might go to needy public schools." Public schools must be the best schools, bar none. Obviously, this would mean a completely new way of financing public education - wealthy districts should no longer have superior schools to schools serving the poor. I am not against religious groups providing religious education on their own property and at their own expense but ALL children must attend public schools and each of those public schools MUST be superior to any of the co-called "best" charter schools. To my mind education for profit is as nasty as health care for profit.

  82. What if the religious school taught witchcraft? Paganism? Animal sacrifice? Adolescent marriage? Voodoo? Since when is religion confined to the three Abrahamic faiths? How can any legal argument be restricted to just those three? If we cross that line of public funding for private religious institutions, then that opens the door for public funding for just about any belief system, which can be categorized as a religion. If funding is restricted to just two or three faiths, then that is the establishment of state religion which violates the Constitution. This is a line we should not cross.

  83. @Bruce Rozenblit Yeah, just think about those Scientologists.

  84. @Bruce Rozenblit Exactly! Church of Scientology needs to jump on the wagon here, to prove your point. Or, heaven forbid, a madrassah.

  85. We crossed that line generations ago. The only question left is when the rest of us are going to decide to fight back.

  86. Instead of the court looking at legal precedents, they need to glance at what happens to nations that embrace theocratic norms for governing---i.e. the middle east. And, to make matters worse in this regard, we are becoming a more secular nation by the day. What religions are left behind are extreme forms of mystical belief systems that no government should be supporting.

  87. A school that accepts public funding should be accessible to all students, not just a handpicked few, with the same responsibilities to provide the same range of services. And we see why the evangelicals like Donald Trump.

  88. Elections matter. Without McConnell and the Republicans holding the Senate, Merrick Garland would have been on the Supreme Court, and separation of Church and State would be preserved. Without President Trump, neither Gorsuch nor Kavanaugh would be there, perverting our nation's laws for their far rightwing agenda. Each and every one of us, with as much time and energy as we can spare, must vote, register people to vote, volunteer for Democratic political campaigns, and talk to friends, family members, and even strangers in the grocery line about why we must vote for the Democrat in every election at every level. I don't care if the nominee doesn't make me swoon and send a thrill up my leg. I don't care if the Democratic nominee isn't my first choice. Because it's not just climate change; it's not just economic inequality; it's not just combatting racism vs. fomenting racism; it's not just rolling back consumer and environmental protections vs. securing them; it's all of that, plus the very concept of rule of law and separation of powers that is at stake. We are in a war with regressive forces that want to take us back to pre-enlightenment times, and we better start acting like it by uniting against them, because the other side sure is.

  89. Why is my freedom taken away by hospitals being owned by the Roman Catholic Church which denies services based on THEIR not MY beliefs? These public institutions should be forced to either offer all services or sell. It is their choice to leave the field. I have no choice. Of course, I also have no choice in acknowledging the Supreme Court.

  90. I don’t go to Burger King to get a Popeyes chicken sandwich. The medical services market is an open market. No one makes you go to any hospital, much less a hospital that does not provide the attention you want or need. I support legal abortion, and your right to choose a hospital that provides it. I do not support your right to compel a Dr to perform a procedure he or she chooses not to.

  91. @poslug I think you are right and I think all Catholic hospitals should be closed down immediately. Of course, when that happens, besides not being able to get your tubes tied at a local hospital you won't be able to give birth in one either since it won't be there anymore. I'm pretty sure most of these hospitals will shut down if forced to perform abortions, euthanasia, etc. Who's going to replace them?

  92. I am strongly opposed to the SCOTUS decision, and believe that tax monies should not be diverted to private schools. As a point of interest to a small percentage of parents and others, private-independent schools are governed by a board of trustees and may or may not have a religious affiliation. Tuition and fund-raising supports them. They do not/should not receive any monies from the government, though a tax break has unfortunately allowed that on the state tax level in the past. In short, while "school choice" is a loaded term, I do think that each parent should have greater ability to make decisions about schools their child attends. I support any school that will benefit a particular child, but I also believe public schools need greater reform -- and that tax dollars shouldn't be siphoned off to private schools to undermine that, or to shortchange students or teachers. If parents want their children in a school determined by religion and not genuine learning, fine, but they shouldn't feel they deserve tax breaks or other government support.

  93. Well, the flip side of this active state financial support for exercise of "religious freedom" argument is that people needing to use Medicaid or other ACA health insurance for birth control and abortion should not be denied.

  94. @Elizabeth MacLean: God does not negotiate. God demands. The US is stupid beneath contempt to give any public policy credence to anyone who claims to know what any "God" thinks. It is only fertilizer for narcissism leading to toxic mental blooms.

  95. In my little town, the children of people who are not Catholic can attend the local Catholic school. However, their tuition is substantially higher than that of students whose parents ARE Catholic. Isn't this religious discrimination? Shouldn't all students enjoy the same tuition at Catholic schools? If parity is the rule that I think everybody should be the same.

  96. When I went to Catholic school in the 1950's many children from poorer Catholic families paid less or no tuition than the "official" rate. I'm not sure what the non-Catholics paid. But one can argue that it's the same principle as out of state students paying more at state public universities, the members of the community in question can be presumed to be supporting the school already through their local/state taxes (for universities) or church contributions. My Methodist and Republican father would have rejected any suggestion that he receive tax dollars for my tuition since it was a choice freely made to support two systems.

  97. No. Obviously not. A little common sense (not common anymore) is in order. Nongroup members obviously aren't entitled to all the priveliges of the group. If they want those priveliges, join the group! Just common sense. So out of vogue anymore.

  98. @Susan In Brooklyn, only Catholic families who financially support the parish affiliated with the school get reduced tuition. Non-Catholics and non-practicing Catholics pay the higher rate.

  99. Why is it that whenever I hear about questions of school choice, and the argument is framed in separation of church and state and religious freedom, I still smell a money fight - very large forces battling to maintain control of a limited education fund. It's the same feeling I get when the insurance industry hears proposals about a "public option". Show me the money.

  100. The Constitution that we celebrate was written by deists, but for over two centuries more orthodox believers have been telling us that ours is a Christian nation. The latest battles over church and state are only the latest installment in a long running battle between Christian chauvinists and their more secular-minded opponents. In today's campaign, Protestants and Catholics, at one time bitter enemies, are now allies. But that alliance will likely fracture should Jefferson's wall separating church and state begin to crumble. Historians know that religious sectarianism is no less volatile than political sectarianism, and even more productive of strife because the perceived stakes are so much higher. Conservatives on the high court who think that they are doing religion a favor by taking a sledgehammer to Jefferson's wall might come to rue their decision in this case, should they side with those who see America as a Christian nation. Even if they don't, those of us who fear the entrance of religion into the public sphere surely will.

  101. @Stephen N I've read about how "Christian" the founding fathers were. Washington attended church but refused to take communion. When his minister complained that he was setting a bad example, Washington said he would stay home on days when communion was served. Franklin said he would never trust a church with his money unless it was for a specific cause he admired, such as funding an orphanage. Thomas Paine ridiculed the notion that Jesus was the "Son of God", comparing it to pagan myths that Hercules was the son of Zeus.

  102. @Stephen N Religion is everywhere in the public sphere. It's our motto, it's in our courtrooms, on our money, lurking now in our pledge of allegiance, and handed to us to take a vow on. It's crawling all over the place.

  103. Would these plaintiffs bring this case if the school were Muslim or for atheists only? This case opens the prospect of government meddling in religion as well as the opposite situation, religion meddling in our government. Perhaps this is already the case as the SC seems intent on allowing Christianity to become our state religion. Where is the secular fairness that our founders desired as they separated church from state?

  104. @just Robert - The US is/was obviously basically Christian in character and should be again. Overtly. Our society is failing because of our intended excision, legal and otherwise, of our moral values. We need God and our Christian values back desperately and allowing a few social engineering lib 'justices' et al. to forestall that is socially suicidal.

  105. @Andy Eppink Christian values at least as far as they are universal, love compassion and standing for the down trodden and poor, is fine. It is the part where Christians try to tell others what to do, how to think or try to suppress the ideas of others that bother me. Christians seem to think they have an edge on morality, but their support of Trump's corruption to suggests otherwise.

  106. @just Robert - What makes Trump tolerable, indeed deserving of enthusiastic support, is his stalwart Pro Life bent. Most politicians and 'judges' are cowardly liars regarding that issue. Trump has his obvious faults otherwise.

  107. “School Choice Battle May Boost Religious Freedom” "Religious Freedom" is newspeak for discrimination. There is no "freedom" about it. What the proponents want is a legalized way of forcing their religious views on someone else. That is blatantly against the first amendment. If these parents who are members of religious organizations want taxpayer dollars to fund their scholarships, then let their religious organizations pay the same kind of taxes secular groups do to fund them. It's time to end the tax exemptions for religious groups.

  108. @Max Dither --There is a huge difference between "freedom of religion", which give us all the right to chose, and enumerated in our founding documents, and "religious liberty," which suggests that there be no limitations for these extremists.

  109. @Max Dither Well said. Thank you.

  110. Ms. Greenhouse, as always, I look forward to learning from you about the intricacies the Supreme Court. However, given the nation is currently watching our democracy die in the senate some thoughts from you about the role of Supreme Court in the destruction of the rule of law and the Constitution, and how to stop it, would be valued. Looking back, one can't help to notice that since 1982 the Federalist Society has worked to seed the federal courts, the Justice Department, and congress with conservative/libertarian lawyers seeking to advance the interests of corporations, great wealth, and the religious right. Five member of the Supreme Court are current or past members of the Federalist Society. Using a playbook similar to Putin's alliance with oligarchs and the Russian Orthodox Church Republicans have steadily taken control of key levers of power — the senate, federal courts, and the executive branch. That said, lawyers, seeking wealth and power, planned and executed the takeover of the courts, now the nations needs lawyers, that value our democracy, to step up and protect the rule of law and the Constitution.

  111. I f the court agrees, does that mean we can expect to receive property taxes from currently exempt religious institutions to offset these new costs?

  112. @Sam Surely, you jest. These are folk who want your cake so they can eat it too.

  113. I grew up in St. Louis and attended only Lutheran schools until I went to graduate school. My schools wouldn't even take government milk money for fear that the government would gain a foothold and a lever to influence curriculum. I still believe in the basic principle that if you want a private school for your child, pay for it. Don't ask for tax dollars. And yes, continue to meet your obligation to support public education by paying your fair share of taxes.

  114. Our Founding Fathers were exquisitely aware of the problems with a theocratic state. Many of their ancestors fled the religious discrimination of the English Crown, Parliament, and Anglican Church, only to establish equally intolerant and discriminatory Puritan colonial goverments. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson fled from Massachusetts Bay Colony in fear for their lives because they did not conform. Non-Puritans could not vote, yet were taxed to support Puritan ministers. Many of the church elite infused social and governmental institutions with their brand of bigotry. No wonder the authors of the Constitution and of its first ten amendments did not invoke God anywhere in the text. No wonder their concern to protect the people from a state religion. State supported religious schools are a slippery slope designed to undermine one of the most basic protections against government intrusion we hold as citizens.

  115. I suppose it would be too much to ask the issue be decided not on the basis of ideologies but on what best serves the public good and the education of children.

  116. There should be some mention of the history behind Montana's constitutional prohibition of tax money for religious schools. Most of these provisions were state versions of the failed "Blaine" amendment to the US Constitution which was fueled by anti-Catholic animus. Catholic schools were established because of the overtly Protestant orientation of the public schools of the time. In an ideal world, taxpayer funds would be allocated to students, and could be used at any school that met state standards.

  117. @J. Waddell "In an ideal world, taxpayer funds would be allocated to students, and could be used at any school that met state standards." Then in an ideal world religious schools receiving federal or state taxpayer funding should also have to pay federal or state taxes. Remember, I said that's in an ideal world. Not the world we live in currently.

  118. @J. Waddell How any state could have standards that include the acceptance of teaching that there is a guy in the sky who controls everything and everybody is more frightening than the fires, floods and pestilence we're now experiencing. We're doomed.

  119. Using having tax-dollars to support religious education seems like a pretty clear violation of the establishment clause in the first amendment. It is, in effect, state support for a religion and should not be allowed under any circumstances. It's fine if if parents want to send their children to a private religious school but they need to pay for it themselves.

  120. @Dave I suggest that the church-state separation isn't addressed in the Constitution itself, but only in court rulings interpreting the constitution. It sp;ecifically addresses only what the U.S. Congress,not necessarily what individual state legislatures may or may not do. Also, it wouldn't appear to ban or endorse giving funding to individual citizens who might spend that money in religious schools.

  121. @Dave Allowing parents to make their own decisions as to where their tax dollars go for their children's education is hardly an "establishment of religion". No one is forcing their neighbors or the state to comply to a specific religion. It is giving the freedom to choose.

  122. @DMH The words, "shall make no law," mean that religion is its own as far as my taxes are concerned. I will not be forced to pay a dime for a single brick in any religion's house.

  123. The notion of religious freedom has been turned on its head by those who are perfectly free to worship as they please anywhere they please. No government or law forbids the practice of their chosen religion. What they are actually demanding is a state-funded privilege for their religion at the expense of all other religious or non-religious beliefs. Would these same people support their tax dollars going to Muslim schools or Buddhist schools or Hindu schools? Likely not. They believe that the US should be for Christians only (though it is no a theocracy and never has been), and they want the rest of us to pay for their right to indoctrinate their children to follow their beliefs. I don’t care how they indoctrinate their children at home or in schools they pay for. Just don’t ask me to support the teaching of fake science and whitewashed history in their religious schools.

  124. The government should provide good education to its future citizens. This should be done in a public setting with no influence by one's party or religious belief system. If a parent wants to teach their kids about religion, it is their choice but the government (others in society) should not be made to pay for it. The only payment should be done to secular public schools where we should provide the best education possible. In recent times private education has been subsidized by public funding. This should be stopped and that money should be routed back to public schools.

  125. I studied the Trinity Lutheran case in a class I taught at the time. We read all the briefs and listened to oral arguments. It was, of course, not about playgrounds at all. It was about persistent insistence on the imposition of Christianity on secular society. It was a stepping stone and this case will be a boulder. I watched yesterday's impeachment trial and experienced involuntary revulsion as the Chief Justice introduced the chaplain for an opening prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance with its unconstitutional "Under God" phrase. The sheep of the Senate bleated with compliant sanctimony. While shrinking, there remains a powerful plurality of the devout who are determined to overlay a patina of religion on every facet of American life. The Trump administration's many vile dimensions are obvious. But among them, not enough attention is paid to the dangerous, primitive values that drive much of the policy and practice. Mike Pompeo, William Barr and others are hellbent on placing their religious beliefs in the forefront of our nation's life. Even more than Trump's buffoonery and dishonesty, this is the greatest risk to the country I no longer recognize. I'd leave if not for an extended family I cherish.

  126. @Barking Doggerel Well said. I'm a boomer but the Milennials can't take control of our political system soon enough. Their values are my values, not the gibberish my fellow boomers are 'selling'.

  127. I’d leave it but no other country would take me.

  128. @Maggie Maggie, Gorsuch and Kavanagh are GenX, not Millenials (born between 1980 and 2015)

  129. Why in the earlier case wasn’t the religious school that wanted to use federal funds for its playground denied that option and told to use their own funds? Are religious schools and institutions required to conform to governmental regulations about safety and accessibility?

  130. I think the best bet here is to completely stop using public money to fund private schools.... period. Using public funding to pay for the public school system should be a complete no-brainer: its the common purse, so it should fun public and not private services - end of story. Education in the USA is both highly politisized and under-prioritized and the push to split funds allocated to this top-tier task, between the public school system and a variety of private schools, is eroding even further, the ability of the USA to properly educate its future citizens. As to whether religious schools should get public funding, well that's completely ridiculous: if they want to keep their children separate from the rest of the world and teach them dubious things such as "The world and probably the rest of the universe was magically created 6,000 years ago, followed by a worlwide flood 4500 years ago. This is the truth written in our Holy Book and science is completely wrong whenever it contradicts the Word of God."... then we at the very least, shouldn't give them public money to indoctrinate their children in this or any other specific manner. To me, this is that most uncommon of all senses - common sense!!

  131. @Joseph Ross Mayhew: Finland, reportedly a very happy country today, had been impoverished until the central government created a broad-base federally funded and managed public education system providing a consistent experience for students subject to relocation.

  132. @Joseph Ross Mayhew In a Brooklyn public pre-school, 4 year olds are being told they can choose whether to be a boy or a girl. Doesn't sound much better. Very few say science is wrong when it is not supported by the bible. A good deal of science is rejected when it is not supported by leftists.

  133. @Steve Bolger Thank you, Steve. It is insane that this country bows and scrapes to "local standards" of every school board. We are a mobile country and it is hit-or-miss whether a child gets the same math book even if they are simply moving across town. Throw in 'religious schools' and it is a toxic mess.

  134. When I read this column it raised three important questions for me: 1) Why do conservatives tout states’ rights except when it comes to religion, gun control, abortion, legalizing marijuana, sanctuary cities, and opening up most coastal waters to drilling just to name a few? I thought they felt the federal government was the problem? 2) If the religious schools in Montana use federal funds shouldn’t they pay federal taxes? 3) If the federally funded scholarship money in Montana was used by students to attend a Muslim, Jewish, or any other non-Christian religious school would things be different? I realize non-Christian religious schools in Montana are basically non-existent. But what if this was California or New York? Answers please.

  135. @Gaston Corteau I agree with all of your points/questions; especially #2. I am stumped as to why all organizations that promote a particular belief system are tax exempt in the USA.

  136. @Dbell48 It is supposed to be so that they stay out of secular society. Well, I guess that bird has flown!

  137. @Gaston Corteau: Government purportedly interferes with God's will, which they believe to be their own thoughts in language. Their id is their God.

  138. I don't understand the argument that says it "penalizes or interferes with a person's free expression of religion" if they can't get government monies to send their kids to religious schools. Does it stop them from praying or worshipping or believing the way they want? This sounds to me like too many other cases (refusing to bake cakes for gay couples; refusing to pay for insurance for employees who want contraception) where people extend their definition of "free expression of religion" to include a whole lot of other behaviors, like forcing their beliefs on others. Those of us who don't believe in war as a result of our religion are still obliged to pay for it. And I am sure there are lots of other examples. I was raised very religiously and attended public schools. Nothing in my experiences at those schools impinged on my religious freedom. What am I missing?

  139. @J. Reel: "Free exercise" of religion is voluntary. The government cannot coerce it.

  140. We have a similar situation here in Ontario, Canada. There are 4 public school boards: English Non-Catholic, English Catholic, French Non-Catholic, French Catholic. When I registered my non-Catholic son for first grade recently at a public school, I filled out a form where I wanted my municipal taxes to go. Nevertheless, the government, with taxpayers' money funds Catholic schools but not schools of other religions (Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, non-Catholic Christian denominations) - parents need to pay for these other schools with their own money. Now, this set up is because of historical reasons and is naturally hard to change. People who are receiving some benefit or privilege are loathe to give it up and can find all sorts of reasons to justify it. The Catholic schools do provide excellent educations and some local boards are loosening attendance rules so that non-Catholics may attend but doing it discreetly and can still turn away students. Officially, Canada is a 'secular' country but these anomalies exist throughout. For me, if the choice came down to having my kids obtain an excellent education at a local Catholic school versus a worse education at a public school, I'd likely choose the former even if would mean obligatory religious instruction in a religion different to our own.

  141. @Wonderer I often hear this: That Catholic schools offer superior schooling. Given the shallow intellectual depth of the Supreme Court of both present and past Justices, what I see instead, is a superior concept of banding together. That's it. So, I am totally unsurprised that the Catholic organizations have taken up "riding on the Libertarian coat-tails". But, I will point out that those coat-tails for a Libertarian state that 'education' is NOT a public right, it is the total responsibility for the parent to educate - or not educate - their child. You need to wonder why Catholics are teeming up with this group. Is it simply because the Libertarians state that the reproductive rights of a woman "are to be left up to local standards", not to the woman?

  142. @rosa I should clarify that standardized testing results show that on average Catholic schools score slightly better than non-Catholic here in Ontario but that needs to be controlled for income and other factors. There are excellent public schools throughout Ontario and it is generally safe to say that those in higher income neighbourhoods tend to have better outcomes and scores - Catholic or not. Looking back, I feel that I received an excellent public school education if I were able to evaluate it honestly.

  143. @Wonderer: Jews in the US have always privately funded Hebrew School.

  144. It is my understanding that one of the reasons that Catholic schools originally accepted that there was not to be government financial support was to prevent governmental intrusion into their curricula and other areas in which they wished to have autonomy. With the money would come the requirement that they conform to general practices and procedures which they found antithetical to Catholic teachings. Fair enough. Tuition vouchers and other such stratagems that come with government oversight may not be so bad -- if the religious schools that accept these benefits also accept any restrictions that may accompany the aid.

  145. So typical. Conservative judges say they decide based on a strict adherence to what the Constitution says and what James Madison was thinking in the 1780's, EXCEPT when it affects their personal beliefs and constituencies.

  146. Just a thank you to Linda Greenhouse for her explanations of what are often obtuse legal proceedings. Look forward to her columns.

  147. When we humans feel the need to protect our imaginations, in this case our gods, other humans and those with other gods or similar gods perceived differently usually suffer the consequences. In this case a loss of education based on facts and science instead of wishes.

  148. Imaginary case. A family in Burlington, VT, has 4 kids, 11-14. The city gives each of them vouchers for education costs.... let's say $2,500 each (I have no idea what the actual funding for Burlington schools might be!) One kid chooses the city junior high (secular); another, a charter school; another, the local Catholic school; and another, a Protestant school, for reasons of her own. Sounds fair to me. I thought Americans believed in competition.

  149. @vermontague While capitalism is, in my opinion, the true religion of the US, belief in competition doesn't change the fact that public monies cannot be used to advance a particular religious view. Church schools teach religious beliefs, and therefore are not eligible for public funds. If they are so good, they should be able to compete for private funds.

  150. @vermontague The purpose of religious schools is to inculcate religion. "The First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another." Imaginary case: A family in Montana has 4 kids, 11-14. The city gives each of them vouchers for education costs.... let's say $2,500 each. All 4 kids choose a Christian education, because there are no other choices (read the article). So the Christian schools get beaucoup bucks, but the other religious and public schools are starved. Sounds like a set-up to me. Competition is for business, not primary education... unless of course there's something else going on, under the surface.

  151. @April I'm glad you began with "the true religion of the US...." is capitalism. In fact, all schools teach some sort of "world view," and none is free from a (religious?) perspective. We are blessed, in our small town, to have a private school corporation, to which our town sends all its students. It is academically excellent, and philosophically broad-based.... I need to send a donation. I'm glad this came up!

  152. As an atheist I probably should be on Montana's side. But seeing how poor public education has become for many, I have sympathy for parents who want an alternative that's otherwise unaffordable.

  153. @kwb The public education in my district is excellent. I live in a very affluent area. The public education in a nearby district that's riddled with shuttered business and falling down homes is abysmal. The problem is 100% how we FUND our schools -- the property tax in each district, for that district. This is what you should be concerned about.

  154. The Times needs to interview churches outside the evangelical/Catholic axis. If they did they'd find that most churches consider "religious freedom" a non-issue. I work for a mainline Protestant church and never hear anybody complain about lacking "religious freedom". It's a euphemism for certain denominations seeking special privileges.

  155. When businesses compete, we freely choose which to do business with and our money follows our choice: McDonalds or Burger King or taco or sub or sushi. But when government provides a business service, the 'customers' have to pay for it whether they like it or not; indeed, whether they even use it or not. So government services reduce freedom, diversity, and accountability compared to business services, and reduce competitive pressure for improvement. Bluntly, government services (including crony capitalism, using government to stifle competition) tend to be morally inferior to business services. This applies to schools. If the money freely followed each student, instead of following the greedy bureaucracy, we'd have more freedom diversity, accountability, and improvement than we have now. This case, tho odd--shutting down the program reminds me of shutting down public schools after Brown vs Board--could be a step away from the wrong direction, a step in the right direction: freedom. Jesus is libertarian, and He didn't assign schools to government; read the lists of jobs for government in Romans 13 and I Timothy 2.

  156. @Andrew Lohr It's very convenient how Jesus always seems to agree with the political beliefs of his followers. Accommodating guy, that Jesus.

  157. Except that, strictly speaking, religious schools are not really schools at all but, rather, instruments of indoctrination and mind control. Public money should be used for education, not indoctrination.

  158. @Ed But Trump and the GOP recently gave Rupert Murdoch's business kingdom and the individual multi-millionaire individual stars of Fox News bigger public money tax cuts that they could have ever dreamed of.

  159. The church has breached the church/state wall since day one of our republic. The notion that partisan politics isn't preached from the pulpit is laughable. It's time we end the charade and tax the churches like any other business.

  160. @Mike Would you approve the taxation of mosques and temples for other religions outside of Christianity? People always love coming after the institutions of Christianity but balk at any of the same requirements for other religions within the USA.

  161. @Henry A reason Christianity is a target for some people is because it is the dominant and most influential religion in this nation. Mosques and temples are not competing to dominate our political arena in the way some forms of Christianity are. Also, his tone seemed to say he would be fine with that.

  162. @Henry Evidence, please?

  163. The Republican appointed judges will of course reinforce the tyranny of religious fanatics over those of an atheist persuasion and overturn the founding fathers original intent of separation of church and state. They will do this so that Republicans can realize their desire to privatize schools across the nation from which they will profit from. At the same time public schools will be starved of funds lowering their ability to produce an education even further. People have a right to a secular education based on science and people also have a right to send their children to parochial schools if they wish. What they don't have the right to do is demand me to fund their private school choices while costing the general public more money for their own private preferences around their religion. Freedom of religion means you get to worship what you want. It doesn't mean I have to subsidize it because that's why we don't tax them. There is nothing here but the attempt to further undermine public education again by the Right which wants us all to pay more for education while they seek further tax cuts. Please do not be fooled into thinking its about religion because its about money and a little brainwashing to boot.

  164. @Mark I agree that the goal of the Right is not religious freedom. I think it is freedom from (not of) association. Public schools have been society's melting pot--the place where the rich and the poor, the religious and not, and people of all races (barring significant housing segregation) rub shoulders. If a family chose to opt out, they would do so on their own dime whilst still contributing to the education of all. The rich don't like that arrangement and are now using a religious freedom argument to essentially opt out of shared space. This has much deeper, long-term implications than the cases being decided or even the religious freedom outcome. It is the tip of the spear in exempting the wealthy from participating in society--financially or otherwise--and will lead to accelerating income inequality and the consequent problems associated with it. It's all of a piece with the tax cut, Citizen's United, and the aggressive use of the public charge rule in immigration. If they have their way, the rich will live in their own society, leaving the rest of us to feud over the scraps that remain.

  165. @Mark I think you should re-read the 1st amendment. It does not in any way say you cannot use public funds for religious schools/operations, etc. What it DOES say is that the government cannot endorse a specific religion. So long as the rules apply equally to all schools of all religious or non-religious denominations it does not violate the 1st amendment.

  166. @Justin As far as Mark needing to re-read the 1st amendment: John Leland, a Baptist minister alive at the time of the drafting of the 1st amendment (and an ardent supporter of it), gave us a definition of the establishment of religion that clearly shows us what it was back then: A government mandate of the time, manner, or place of a religious practice was an establishment of religion. (See the Virginia requirement for preachers needing a license to preach or the Connecticut mandatory tax for the support of local churches.) Distribution of federal funds to private religious schools is the religious practice of a tithe by any other name, and will be enforced through civil or criminal penalties for failure to pay taxes. I currently have the right to voluntarily support (or not support) any religious institution I choose. I will lose that right through the court’s creation of a de facto establishment of religion, perhaps to Justin’s joy. (By the way, reserving freedom of religion for a faction of religious conservatives robs it from the rest of the citizens. It will never apply to “Everytown, USA”.)

  167. Those who object to "funding" abortion have the Hyde Amendment. I object to funding the indoctrination of impressionable children in religious schools. Where's my Hyde Amendment? Why is the "choice" of the believers or the right-wing the only choice that matters? Will the Supreme Court care about my choice? No. No, they will not. They will breach that wall with impunity. And my already backward state will run with the Montana decision and fall even further behind.

  168. What "wall" separating church and state? All the Constitution says is that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. That's it. May I remind Mrs. Greenhouse: The Well of the House of Representatives has a huge sign that says "In God We Trust" This phrase is on all of our money Christmas is a Federal holiday All Federal officers swear their oaths on a Bible Sunday is a holiday (It is not in Saudi Arabia, OK?) Every opening of the Supreme Court's sessions starts with a prayer Every opening of the Senate and the House opens with a prayer The House has a Chaplain The Senate has a Chaplain The President signs bills which state "In the year of our Lord . . . " Which "Lord" do you think this is? Almost every state's constitution thanks God in its preamble (Massachusetts thanks the "Legislator of the Universise . . . .and His providence) There is no separation of church and state in the United States. We simply cannot legalize a national religion.

  169. @Rene Descartes But that is effectively what the religious right is asking us to do -- because it is clear they would object to taxpayer money going to madrassas or schools of Theravada and Mahayana.

  170. As a Catholic, the most generous response I have to this case is that this is embarrassing and unseemly. John Roberts et al. can blather on about religious expression as much as they want to justify this cynical ploy to destroy a public good, but it's a faithless exercise at its core. Faith doesn't need tax subsidies. Faith doesn't need constant reassurance from earthly authorities that it is doing the right thing. That's not how any of this works! Faith is internal, essentially irrational (as in beyond proof by human methods), and can only be nurtured by the self. Government backing of "deeply held religious beliefs" doesn't support actual religious faith any more than a corset helps develop strong core muscles.

  171. Time for a needed reversal in the Court’s “separation of church and state” jurisprudence. The Court has been waging an unjustified and unlawful war against Christianity for decades. School administrators and town clerks across the country are afraid to tolerate the words “God” or “Jesus” anywhere within the bounds of their jurisdictions. Time for the madness to end.

  172. The core argument for all religions is Special Pleading. God is the "uncaused cause," that is allowed to violate the laws of logic because that is necessary to explain God’s existence. The problem with this sort of soft thinking is that it trains adherents to apply Special Pleading to other arguments beyond just their god claims. This case is a perfect example.

  173. In the 1970s I studied constitutional law with Milton Konvitz, the illustrious legal scholar who taught at Cornell for decades. He wrote a number of books on Supreme Court case law. He was also a religious Jew, born in Palestine in 1910. He made a clear and convincing argument that the Establishment Clause, which demands a wall of separation between government and religious entities, is the only way free expression of religion can be assured. As he pointed out, once government is giving you money, government can poke into your affairs. At that time, just about every religious body endorsed a high and strong wall of separation, which they saw as necessary for their survival and autonomy. Now many Christians in America feel besieged and discriminated against because the government won't subsidize their decision to bypass the public schools in favor of a religious education for their children. Just another sign of the changing times.

  174. Well, we can see the result of state funded religious schools in the Middle East. Good luck to future generations.

  175. I'm not sure if I understand all of the terminology here, vouchers and such. But my understanding is that churches, which pay NO taxes, are entitled to everyone else's tax dollars? Help me out here

  176. Still pointless. We have not had a legitimate SCOTUS since 2000. Now that the court is packed with two pretenders to the bench, all "decisions" must be nullified before legitimacy can be restored. Not likely! Gorsuch and Kavanaugh must be stricken from the record, which will reverse many illegitimate "decisions," but will we see that in our lifetimes? Nah, we will age out before the criminals guilty of invading Iraq have been brought to justice.

  177. I have a modest proposal. Let's start taxing religious institutions so we can properly fund religious activities.

  178. These parochial schools are affiliated with some religious order that is tax exempt so why send them tax money? Follow the Constitution or live to regret it.

  179. The Christian far right seeks not religious freedom (no one is stopping them from practicing their religion) but the privileging of Christian faith. This is in clear defiance of our wholly secular Constitution. “There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.” — Ruth Hurmence Green

  180. Don't you love the rationale for not firing Trump? Presidents who believe their re-election will serve the national interest can do anything whatsoever to get re-elected, probably including shooting down civilian airliners with hacked enemy air defenses.

  181. Would these same people argue for public funding of a Muslim school? A Quaker school? Nope. It's all about traditional Christian religious beliefs and practices.

  182. End tax avoidance for all religious institutions, then they can have some of my tax dollars.

  183. In that case churches can start paying taxes if they want in but our so called Supreme Court will of course let us down and violate the Constitution and do what worst for the nation.

  184. It is absolutely the case that to the religious right, the definition of "religious persecution" is actually "lack of special treatment for my religion".

  185. Why aren’t public taxes going to parochial schools a freedom of speech problem? I don’t want my tax dollars used to inculcate kids with religious ideas that I disagree with. Isn’t that forced speech? If money is speech, as found in Citizens United, then this is surely my money being used to promote ideas that I find offensive. And don’t be fooled, teaching that birth control is sinful and that gays are evil turns in to political power.

  186. It's odd that we allow public money in the form of Medicare and Medicaid dollars to go to religiously sponsored hospitals - including many Catholic hospitals - but somehow it's unconstitutional for public dollars to go to religiously sponsored schools. Perhaps Ms. Greenhouse could write a column about New York taxpayer dollars going to orthodox yeshivas.

  187. @J. Waddell While there may be exceptions, in general Catholic hospitals promote healing, whereas Catholic schools promote Catholicism.

  188. Religious indoctrination of one's children is a right. Having it subsidized by my tax dollars is not. That churches and religious schools are tax-exempt adds to the insult and the injustice. I should not have to carry anyone's god on my back.

  189. I fear that with this SC there will soon be full public funding of all religious schools in the country.

  190. Once again, religious zealots insist on forcing us to subsidize their religious education in the name of “freedom” when our Constitution specifically forbids it. We have to stop the spread of this taint on the first principle of our country, which was to escape the strictures of the Church of England. Current members of our Supreme Court have started to normalize religious subsidies in the name of freedom, but just imagine if the subsidy was for a Muslim school teaching Sharia law. No doubt those who talk about “freedom” would draw the line. True freedom is freedom from forced state subsidy of religious indoctrination that perverts secular law. Only secular law is neutral. If you want a religious education, you pay for it, not me.

  191. Betsy DeVos, the Trump appointed Secretary of Education, the rich woman from Michigan, and her religious ways are destroying public education for the United States. Religious schools do not have to provide special education assistance, such as for kids with disabilities, but by God, those kids will learn their Bible verses. Religious school teachers do not have to abide by same employment or educational policies, either. Class sizes? All depends on the day. Squeeze ‘em in. Vouchers for religious schools are decimating our public school funds. In case you are wondering, I know for a fact in Wisconsin, if children in a family qualify for vouchers because of income limits, the parent income is never checked again once qualified. That’s right - mom could go back to work, the parents could get substantial raise, and taxpayers still pay for vouchers which go to support churches....all the way through those kids’ school years. Oh well, they will all be good Christians just like Donald Trump, right?

  192. @MIMA - maybe religious school teachers don't have to be paid much. Will they be eligible for SNAP (food stamps), housing vouchers, medicaid?

  193. GREAT. I am a Unitarian. We are pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ, pro-Black Lives Matter, pro-Respect for all living beings (poor people, animals, humans, bacteria, the life field of Earth), pro-getting rid of fossil fuels, pro-Social Justice, anti-war, anti-bigotry, pro-education, anti-abuse, pro-Science, FEMINIST, and many other progressive stances. We will use government funds to pay for schools that share this information! Bring it.

  194. Utah of all places resoundingly rejected vouchers for any non-public education. Trump, Betsy DeVos, is shoving this down even conservative throats. The reasoning is simple. Under the auspices of religious freedom vouchers can divert public funds not only to religious institutions but also for-profit institutions. Many charter schools are just shell companies. Non-profit in name only. They spend much more per student without producing better outcomes. That's the real goal here. Trump is using taxpayer money to advance Trump University at the expense of public schools. Religion is just a pretext.

  195. This, as so many issues of moment in the courts today, is not so much about religion in America as it is about the corruption, the legal hollowing out, the ultimate demise of SCOTUS under Roberts. Even an assignment as simple as sitting back and watching our woebegone impeachment charade, under rules partisan and simple-minded, demonstrates Roberts' utter unwillingness to decide against his ideological team. Defensively pointing out his only role is to enforce bizarre rules promulgated by McConnell for maximum pr effect with "imprisonment" the penalty for speaking to one's neighbor, milk and water the only sustenance, technology of every sort forbidden, Roberts refuses to move against the home team. So Republicans prance about the chamber conducting Google searches on their Apple watches, communicating via email, text, and instant message; forbidden Bics flourish as favored pencils lie scattered in contemptuous disuse; paper, the most dangerous technology of all, is employed for simple linguistic amusement as well the vile passing of notes among Senators; bathroom breaks abound and grow, media escapes its appointed coral, the place becomes Republican Bedlam. Still Roberts sits peaceably watching his favored Conservative children make a mockery of the law and a dead stick of his nation. This religion hoo-hah is only more of the same. Roberts pulling a classic "Oh my..." Susan Collins, waiting for the moment to announce his foregone decision or not to act at all.

  196. Religious freedom sounds like fun. Personally, I’m converting to Solipsism. It’s hard to argue that life is meaningless, when all of existence is merely a function of one’s own being. I assume that all of you pesky mortals will begin to do my bidding presently.

  197. As a former evangelical and now a proud atheist and DEMOCRATIC partisan, its my belief that imaginary gods bless this decision as well as this nation.

  198. We'd be much better off if we treated religious institutions as what they truly are: businesses. Some are indeed non-profit, and they could claim and file in such a category, but others are undeniably for-profit, and abuse the heck out of the system. Tax them all like everyone else. There begins a separation of church and state. But the leanings of the Supreme Court does beg the question of, what can the American Public do when the Supreme Court goes rogue, hoists a political flag, and no longer even pretends to be non-political? I suppose that would signal that it is time to, shall I say nicely, begin it all again? The Republicans are coming! The Republicans are coming!

  199. Geez, maybe the Dems now think that they should have been upfront and honest about Brett Kavanaugh instead of still pandering for the same votes as the Republicans. It is the 21 st Century now, not the 11th..... Most Americas are way ahead of both parties on "truth" and our "leaders" keep dragging us backward in time.

  200. @twill Honesty, responsibility, and acknowledging the consequences of our actions is SO 11th Century.

  201. @jumblegym I think you missed my point. Irregardless of what he did or did not do in the 1980's, THE issue is what he is going to do on the Supreme Court. Our "leaders" live in the past .

  202. The case is a report card on public school education and its failure in some communities.

  203. It affords the perfect opportunity to pass the collection plate in the entire community, every day. Ambition is good? When they run up against the business communty the nonsense will stop.

  204. Gorsuch, refusing to join footnote 3 in the Trinity Lutheran Case, wrote: Such a reading would be unreasonable for our cases are "governed by general principles, rather than ad hoc improvisations." If so, the Supreme Court is duplicitous because in the (pre-Gorsuch) Shelby County v Holder decision, the court invalidated the preclearance section of the Voting Rights Act (which had been reauthorized by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress) because it "reenacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relation to the present day".

  205. When religion and government drive the wagon together, they fail to see the rapidly approaching cliff in front of them (loosely paraphrased from Frank Herbert's Dune series). Trinity Lutheran was a warning we failed to act on, the Chief Justice's footnote notwithstanding.

  206. "The plaintiffs are claiming a continued entitlement to scholarships for their parochial school tuition despite the fact that the state court ended the scholarship program for religious and secular schools alike. No one gets the money." Separate but not equal, in fact, more equal than others. This is reminiscent of Animal Farm, and the camel's nose is in the tent to obliterate the fine lines of the all-important anti-establishment clause. If we can watch while the very definition of presidential authority gets mangled and redefined in an impeachment trial, it won't be long before we're debating more and more cases that seek to extend religious privilege for Christian schools. Not Muslim, not Jewish, not any other religious domination, just white Christian (including Catholic) schools. I'm Catholic, but still horrified that the Supreme Court would even consider any case that posed such a risk to our first amendment.

  207. This would only be the beginning of favoritism toward religious institutions of all kinds. The current administration and evangelical groups have a complete religious agenda waiting for the next election. They intend to turn back the clock as far as they can get away with it. They will start with abortion at the top and move the extremity after that. This is a very unfortunate decision.

  208. The right has learned its lesson well - the left needs to be considerate...they does not. And they win. Again and again.

  209. Federal funding of vouchers can result in dilution of public school funds. Religious and private schools often pick the better students, leaving struggling students behind in underfunded public schools. The ultimate goal of many of these groups is to dismantle public schools. A Supreme Court ruling that allows this would be a beginning in achieving that goal.

  210. Religious education, whether a Madras, Yeshiva, or a Catholic school has done more to radicalize the most radical right wing sectors of every society than anything else. Why public funds need to go to these miseducation camps is beyond me.

  211. Which is the more theocratic and authoritarian nation? The USA or Saudi Arabia. Discuss among yourselves.

  212. Religious neutrality. Way past time to tax churches. Treat their property just like all other property. Let’s just ignore that pesky Establishment clause. Kind of like the “militia” in the Second Amendment. Oh right; just claim it’s in the national interest, and anything goes.

  213. @Jo Williams You're right! And I hear the "national interest'" is up to about a trillion on all that old debt. (22 trillion) We can no longer afford these greedy religious men. Time to tax all of it.

  214. I do not want to pay taxes to propagate lies with a government imprimatur! Why would anyone else?

  215. I would love to see what would happen if it became known that taxpayer money was being used to fund tuition at a new Madrassa in Billings.

  216. While about 52% of Americans are Protestants, 24% are Catholics, 10% are atheists/ agnostics and 1.8 are Jewish six of the Supreme Court of the United States Justices are Catholics and three are Jewish. The Supreme Court of the United States sits at the pinnacle of the least democratic branch of our constitutional republic. Avoiding even the appearance of impropriety is the basic ethical obligation of the legal profession

  217. It would be interesting to see what those in favor of giving state or federal money to schools promoting religion, meaning Christianity, would do, if the school requesting money was a madrassa.

  218. When I was in my 20’s, a State Trooper in Virginia gave me a speeding ticket on which he wrote in capital letters “For Exceeding 105 MPH in a school zone at 3 AM.” I pointed out to the lady Judge who presided at my hearing that the traffic was light and school was closed at 3 AM, but she was not sympathetic to my cause and sentenced me to a month in driver training school, where they showed us gory movies about bad traffic accidents. It turned out to be the last traffic ticket I ever got in my life, and -- apart from jury duty -- the last time I have ever appeared in a court of law. Looking back on it today, and comparing this Judge's life-saving-performance-then-on behalf-of-me to Chief Justice Roberts' utterly-inadequate-one in-behalf-of-the-nation-now, I am beginning to think of her as the legal giant and Roberts as the pygmy one.

  219. We are only a stone's throw from tax breaks for Bob Jones University Anyone escpecting Roberts to do the right thing has a long wait coming. He is presiding over a sham trial and he will do nothing. DUH

  220. Ummm, so I guess ever getting churches' tax exemption reversed is out of the question? Seriously, the idea that churches and their peripheral businesses are tax exempt, and now demand not just equal funding on a par with secular enterprises, but in spite of it being denied everyone, is outrageous!!! "So, what do you want for nuthin', your money back?" as the old joke goes.

  221. Taking citizens’ money to send to religious institutions is a plane violation of the establishment clause and the rights of all Americans. The Christian patriarchy that has seized Control of the Supreme Court will only continue to weaken their “religion” as they force it down our throats.

  222. You’re wasting your breath. Their are too many Roman Catholic justices on the court who are eager to get their hands on my Protestant tax dollars.

  223. The right-wing mantra of "religious freedom" strikes me as Orwellian in nature and adaptable to almost any absurdist crusade.