Agudath Israel of America filed an amicus curiae (“Friend of the Court”) brief in a case before the Supreme Court of Michigan urging the court to uphold a state program that provides for state reimbursement to nonpublic schools for services provided by the schools in compliance with state mandates. In the case, Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiad, Et Al V. Michigan, Et Al, Michigan’s program of mandated reimbursement is being challenged because it provides for state aid to religious schools, and opponents of this aid claim that this violates a provision in the state constitution that prohibits government assistance to religious institutions.
The Agudath Israel brief argues that the provision in the Michigan state constitution that prohibits state aid to religious schools (called a “Blaine Amendment”) was adopted primarily due to anti-Catholic bigotry, as was Michigan’s approval of a ballot proposal that prohibits the state from providing aid to religious schools. The brief argues that under a United States Supreme Court decision, Comm. for Pub. Ed. & Religious Liberty v. Regan, decided in 1980, the court held that it is constitutional for a state to provide reimbursement to religious schools for their performance of state-mandated services, and that such aid is not a violation of the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. the brief also states that under a more recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, to deny reimbursements to religious schools because of a state “Blaine Amendment” would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits government interference with the free exercise of religion.
The Agudath Israel brief was signed by Stephen Polter, a Michigan attorney whom Agudath Israel thanks for agreeing to serve as local counsel of record and filing the brief, Mordechai Biser, Special Counsel for Agudath Israel of America, and Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director and Counsel. Agudath Israel thanks Mark Pollak, a student at Columbia Law School, for his extensive assistance with the research and writing of the brief, and also Scott Whitman, a student at Georgetown University Law Center, for his research and writing assistance.