Earlier this week, the Executive Council voted on a $4.1 million scholarship plan.
The program, approved by legislators last year, will provide for scholarship funding for 23 post-secondary institutions and training programs. Open to any New Hampshire high school graduates who are eligible to receive Pell Grants, the scholarships are set to be available for the next school year.
Under the program, funding is divided equally among the schools, which range from Dartmouth College in Hanover to the NHTI in Concord. Four-year programs would receive $160,000 each, while two-year programs would be allotted $96,000.
The Monitor article indicated that “Democrats raised objections, citing a letter Wednesday morning from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire that took issue with the inclusion of religious schools,” but provided no details on the objections.
Ethan DeWitt, the reporter for the Concord Monitor who covered the hearing and wrote the article, was tweeting in real time:
And attached the ACLU’s letter to a tweet,
This is the same objection the ACLU, and the Democrats raised to Senate Bill 193, a school-choice bill — that the Blaine Amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution prohibits religious schools from participating in the program.
As I explained at length in a prior post, the United States Supreme Court in June of last year ruled that State Blaine Amendment cannot be used to exclude religious institutions from government programs for which they qualify.
On June 26th of this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trinity Lutheran. From Ed Whalen at National Review’s Bench Memos:
In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, the Supreme Court ruled today that the state of Missouri violated the Free Exercise rights of a church when it excluded religious organizations from taking part in a program of grants for playground resurfacing. As Chief Justice Roberts summed things up near the end of his majority opinion for six justices, “the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution.”
The Trinity Lutheran decision means that the Blaine Amendment of the New Hampshire Constitution cannot be used to discriminate against religious schools in Senate Bill 193.
At a minimum, the ACLU’s analysis is totally meritless. But I find it very hard to believe that the ACLU and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky were unaware of the Trinity Lutheran decision. Among others things, I have repeatedly tweeted about it under the #nhpolitics hashtag. I think it is far more likely that they were deliberately withholding this information from the GOP members of the Executive Council and the Governor, none of whom are lawyers.
A few additional points. The Attorney General did not mention Trinity Lutheran decision when asked to comment on the ACLU’s letter:
Maybe he needs to spend a little less time working on “diversity” and “inclusion” and more time acquainting himself with the religious liberty guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution?
Next point. Russ Prescott continues to be a disappointment. He seems to be putty in Volinsky’s hands:
Final point. I made the Concord Monitor reporter aware that the ACLU’s objections were totally bogus:
Yet he never mentioned the Trinity Lutheran decision on Twitter or in his article. That’s #FakeNews.