In a huge victory for religious liberty, Wisconsin's Supreme Court ruled on June 10, 1998 that taxpayer-financed vouchers payable to parochial schools do not violate the state or federal constitutions.
This is the first time a state supreme court has sanctioned a school choice program that allows parents to use vouchers at religious schools. Similar cases are pending before the top courts of Arizona, Maine, Ohio and Vermont, with decisions expected this year.
Christian Defense Fund supported the case for religious rights of Milwaukee parents by filing a "friend of the court" brief.
Opponents of school vouchers including teachers unions, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Let's hope they do.
This case will serve as the U.S. Supreme Court's first test of the constitutionality of vouchers.
The Wisconsin decision reversed virtually every significant finding of the circuit and appeals courts and ruled for school choice on key issues not settled by lower courts.
If upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, this decision will open the door to similar efforts in every state.
According to Christian Defense Fund President Bob Conover, "This decision gives parents in the Milwaukee school voucher program the power to choose schools that they believe further the best interests of their children. No longer must people of faith be forced to make choices only from a list approved by the anti-religious schools establishment. This decision goes a long way toward restoring the religious rights of parents. Now they can choose schools that uphold their religious beliefs."
Currently, 23 private schools participate in the program, 31 others have applied and some 80 Catholic and Lutheran schools are expected to join.
Milwaukee's pilot program provides tuition for up to 15,000 children from eligible low-income families. Parents who receive grants, which can exceed $4,000 a year per child, can use the financial aid at a secular or religious private school or within the public school system.
Christians should be very grateful to Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson who was the driving force behind adoption of the voucher program in 1990 and pressed for the 1995 expansion to include religious schools.
According to Governor Thompson, "This is not only going to allow for choice, but for competition among schools, public and private."