The Education Tax Credit Program allows businesses to reduce their tax liability by receiving an 85 percent tax credit in exchange for donations made to K-12 scholarship organizations which will pay for tuition at religious and other private schools. Since there is no state oversight of the schools receiving funds, religious schools will be able to use the donations for religious instruction, indoctrination, and religiously-based discrimination. The New Hampshire Constitution specifically provides that “no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination” and that “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination.” The Complaint challenging the constitutionality of this Program can be found here.
On June 17, 2013, the Strafford County Superior Court held that this tuition tax-credit program violates the New Hampshire Constitution. The Court explained: “New Hampshire students, and their parents, certainly have the right to choose a religious education. However, the government is under no obligation to fund ‘religious’ education. Indeed the government is expressly forbidden from doing so by the very language of the New Hampshire Constitution.” The Superior Court’s decision can be found here.
The Superior Court’s decision was appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Our New Hampshire Supreme Court briefs can be found here and here. On August 28, 2014, the New Hampshire Supreme Court declined to reach the merits of the case and held that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring suit. On September 8, 2014, the plaintiffs submitted a motion for rehearing or reconsideration which was later denied.
In this case, the ACLU-NH partnered with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU.