The Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, who is now our governor, refused to grant an independent Catholic school transportation benefits unless it agreed to not call itself “Catholic.” Now the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review the case to determine whether the superintendent violated the First Amendment.
Wisconsin provides funding to private schools as long as there is not overlapping attendance between multiple private schools that are affiliated with the same sponsor. The Department of Public Instruction denied students at St. Augustine transportation because there is another Catholic school in the area. St. Augustine, however, is independent and not affiliated with Archdiocese, rendering Evers’ decision unlawful.
WILL previously won a lawsuit when an appeal court ruled that Tony Evers did break the law. However, the court did not address the constitutional question regarding religious liberty.
It’s clear that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prohibits Evers from giving St. Augustine school this ultimatum.
“The critical constitutional questions at the heart of this case remain unresolved,” said Anthony LoCoco, deputy counsel for WILL. “Government bureaucrats cannot withhold a benefit by imposing their own religious definitions on institutions like St. Augustine School.”
Government officials have been hostile toward private and religious schools in Wisconsin and refused transportation funding for years, suggesting that their discrimination is intentional.
“I do think one takeaway from this case is just how far government officials are willing to go in fights against parents and families in private schools. We’ve been at this now for six years, and we’ve been to the Supreme Court twice now, and they’re still unwilling to pay this transportation aid,” LoCoco continued. “The ordinary Wisconsin family cannot afford six years of litigation just to get their kids to school.”
The court’s decision will impact not just Catholics, but people of all faith backgrounds. Any institution that identifies with a religion could be denied funding or discriminated against if the court sides with Evers’ decision. If institutions must decide between professing their faith and receiving funding to keep their operations running, they do not truly have religious liberty.
Every institution and every individual must be free to express their faith and identify with a religion, without contingencies. This is the very principle that our country was founded on. “The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights,” wrote Thomas Jefferson.
Any effort to repress this freedom is an attack on the very foundation of America.
Further, any refusal to allow religious liberty is also an attack on human dignity. Our ability to contemplate the transcendent, search for Truth, and profess our faith is bound to our humanity.
Join Wisconsin Family Action in prayer that the US Supreme Court establishes justice and protects human dignity by upholding religious liberty in Wisconsin, and use your voice to talk to your neighbors about this continued assault on religious freedom right here in our own backyards.