The validity of tax deductions and credits for donations to educational and religious charities under the U.S. Constitution — including direct benefits to religious entities in the form of tax exemptions — has been settled for decades. But Winn v. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit case, defies established precedent and casts a dark cloud over proposed and existing tax credits in states across the nation. The U.S. Supreme Court should grant certiorari and overturn the ruling.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona challenged an Arizona program that allows taxpayers to claim a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to $500 for contributions to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships for children to attend better schools. The ACLU claims the credit violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause because most taxpayers choose to donate to religious scholarship organizations. Fifty-five scholarship organizations have been established to date. Some organizations fund scholarships for low-income families; others fund particular teaching methods — such as Montessori education — while others serve specific geographic areas. Twenty-five scholarship organizations support particular religious schools. Taxpayers are free to choose among these many organizations — including religious and nonreligious — in making their donations, just as when they make any other charitable contribution.
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