In 2013, the North Carolina legislature enacted the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides taxpayer-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools. More than three quarters of the schools attended by students receiving the vouchers are religious. Participating schools need not be accredited by any state or national organization, are not subject to state curricular requirements, and are allowed to discriminate in admissions and hiring on the basis of religion.
Two groups of plaintiffs filed lawsuits alleging that the voucher program violates the North Carolina Constitution, which requires that taxpayer funds go to “public purposes.” The trial court concluded that the voucher program is unconstitutional, and the state appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
In January 2015, we filed amicus briefs in support of each group of plaintiffs. Joined by several other religious liberty organizations, we argued that the public-purpose requirement is not fulfilled by taxpayer subsidies for private, religious schools to provide religious education to a limited number of students who profess the school’s preferred religious beliefs. (Read our amicus brief in Richardson v. North Carolina and our amicus brief in Hart v. North Carolina.)
In July 2015, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision reversing the trial court orders and reinstating the voucher program.