The Montana Supreme Court held oral arguments in Missoula today, April 6, in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The case revolves around a rule from the Department of Revenue which bans use of Statewide Scholarship Tax Credits for those who attend faith-based private schools. The roots of the argument go back to the formation of the State Constitution in 1972 and its inclusion of a controversial “Blaine Amendment” which opponents claim has its roots in religious bigotry and has been challenged in other states. Arguing for the Department of Revenue, Attorney Dan White, contrasted Montana’s constitution with those in other states.
“Many of those say no direct funds may come out of the treasury to be appropriated, or similar things like that,” White said. “Montana is very unique in that it’s not just a question of appropriations or direct payments, it says specifically ‘shall not make any direct or indirect appropriations or payments from any public funds or monies.’ So, we’ve got an ‘indirect’ that’s different from other states and we’ve got ‘public funds or monies’ that’s different from other states.”