By Christine Cooke

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer is a reason to celebrate for education choice advocates. The decision deals a blow to one of the biggest obstacles to school choice efforts – state Blaine amendments.

While the Court looked at the narrow question of whether the state could exclude churches from state programs that have secular intent –specifically the denial of a playground resurfacing grant to a religious preschool – many education choice advocates see the decision as opening the door for an additional legal question: must a state Blaine amendment keep a student from using a state scholarship on an educational choice program simply because it’s a religious school?

For too long state Blaine amendments – remnants of anti-Catholic bigotry, which prohibit public funding from going to religious institutions – have kept educational options out of reach for students that need them. We believe the Trinity decision should embolden education choice efforts.

We hope the Supreme Court continues to see the religious liberty limitations of the state Blaine amendments, and we hope such decisions create additional protections for improved education choice for students across the nation.

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Christine Cooke works as a policy analyst for Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress. Christine has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in English Teaching and graduated from Arizona State University with a law degree. Prior to joining Sutherland Institute, Christine was an English teacher at a public junior high school and a residential treatment center. As a student attorney in the Arizona State University Juvenile Advocacy Clinic, Christine represented clients in juvenile law proceedings and taught community legal education to high school students. She worked in legal and policy research with the legal counsel for the Arizona Office of the Governor, legal counsel for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the Goldwater Institute, and The Heritage Foundation. Christine has made appearances on Fox-13 News and KSL’s Sunday Edition and is regularly featured in regional publications and radio shows. She currently sits on a state committee that advises the Utah State Board of Education on specific education issues. When in her home state of Arizona, she loves to spend time with her family. She also loves music, hiking, and making cookies.

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