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Arizona Shouldn't Use Tax Dollars to Fund Religious Education, Says the American Humanist Association

Washington, D.C., Sept. 22, 2010

The American Humanist Association filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court today asking the Court to affirm a lower court's decision that the Arizona statute that permits awarding taxpayer funded scholarships on the basis of religion violates the First Amendment.

A PDF of the amicus brief can be found here.

Arizona created a program in which dollar-for-dollar income tax credits are granted to individuals contributing to school tuition organizations (STOs). The STOs use the taxpayer funded donations to fund scholarships for students to attend private schools.

However, when awarding the scholarships, the statute permits STOs to specify which schools a recipient attends, thereby denying students true school choice. In recent years, over 80 percent of the scholarships dollars went to private religious schools.

"STOs should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion in awarding taxpayer-funded scholarships," said Bob Ritter, staff attorney at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, legal arm of the American Humanist Association.

The American Humanist Association argued in its amicus brief that because the STO program is a conduit for funding private education with tax dollars, the Arizona statute violates the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion to the extent scholarships are used to fund private religious education.

The amicus brief asks the Supreme Court to affirm the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the scholarship program violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.

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