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The U.S. Constitution's first amendment protects the "free exercise" of religion and prohibits the government from "establishing" a religion.

The peculiar thing about the Montana ruling, however, is that it did not exclude religious schools - it eliminated the entire scholarship program.

At issue before the Supreme Court was a Montana program, passed in 2015, which would provide state tax credits to donors who support a private school scholarship fund.

Roberts said the no-aid provision "bars religious schools from public benefits exclusively because of the religious character of the schools".

"Government funding to religious schools requires taxpayers to support religious institutions and beliefs that may violate their own, something the First Amendment was meant to avoid", continued the RAC.

"Faced with public schools that were culturally Protestant and with curriculum [s] and textbooks that were, consequently, rife with material that Catholics and Jews found offensive, many Catholics and Orthodox Jews created separate schools", and those "who could afford to do so sent their children to" those schools", continued Alito, citing a brief by the Orthodox Union that was submitted in a similar Supreme Court case in 2016. It marks a significant potential advance for school choice, as almost half the country's parents wish they could send their children to private schools but only about one in ten do, due largely to their lack of control over public funds expended in their children's names. "But the no-aid provision [Blaine amendment] penalizes that decision by cutting families off from otherwise available benefits if they choose a religious private school rather than a secular one, and for no other reason".

Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue - has broader implications, because it focused the high court's attention on so-called Blaine Amendments.

The justices faulted the Montana Supreme Court for voiding a taxpayer programme merely because it can be used to fund religious entities, saying it violated the US Constitution's protection of the free exercise of religion. The Trump administration sided with them as did a host of religious rights advocates. This decision makes clear that no state may discriminate against families or schools exclusively on the basis of their religious character.

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In addition, he wrote, "the Montana Supreme Court had no authority to invalidate the [tax credit] program on the basis of that provision". "Today's strong ruling from the Supreme Court solidifies the legal bases for these programs and bolsters their long-term benefits for the Jewish community and other faith communities". "Today's decision marks a major victory for school choice and equality under the law".

"The weight that this monumental decision carries is enormous, as it's an extraordinary victory for student achievement, parental control, equality in educational opportunities, and First Amendment rights", said Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform, a school choice advocacy group.

School choice - or the ability to attend a school other than a public school in your neighborhood - is a long-running controversy in the United States.

The National Education Association, a leading public teachers union, said the decision would harm students.

FILE - Attorney General William Barr speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, April 1, 2020.

The Montana Association of Rabbis argued that the scholarship program violated the Free Exercise clause by using taxpayer money to pay for religious education.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called it a "seismic shock that threatens both public education and religious liberty".

In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor described the ruling as "perverse".