Tax-Exempt Donations Cannot Fund Religious Education


Private money can fund religious education, right? Wrong, says a New Hampshire judge. Of course, he thinks of it as public money. Read more below.


In 2012, the New Hampshire legislature voted by a large majority to pass an education scholarship tax credit into law over the veto of the Democrat Governor, John Lynch. Well, we have a new Governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan. She has bombed her first term. One of the things she failed to do was repeal the education tax credit.

The law gives a tax break on money businesses donate to fund education outside the public school for children of lower-income and middle-income families. There is an upper limit for the amount of donations a business can make.

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Judge John Lewis, a judge at the Strafford County Superior Court, ruled that it was an unconstitutional law because, “[T]he government is under no obligation to fund ‘religious’ education.”

The court order is here. The basis is Part II, Article 83 of the New Hampshire Constitution. As it talks about the importance of education, the—purportedly—relevant piece reads, “Provided, nevertheless, that no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination.”

The Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) is the only organization currently authorized to participate in the collection and dispersal of scholarship funds that businesses can donate to get the tax exemption. They and the Institute for Justice will be appealing this decision.

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