OKLAHOMA CITY - The State of Oklahoma prevailed in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court today, including a major religious liberty victory. In that case, Carson v. Makin, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not permit a State to discriminate against religious schools when providing public benefits, including funds, to private schools. This is so even if the religious schools are using the benefits for religious purposes.
In its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that it is “discrimination against religion” for a State to pay “tuition for certain students at private schools—so long as the schools are not religious.” Moreover, the Court emphasized, "the prohibition on [religious] status-based discrimination under the Free Exercise Clause is not a permission to engage in [religious] use-based discrimination.”
In Carson, the U.S. Supreme Court relied extensively on its prior decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020). Oklahoma led a coalition of States promoting religious liberty interests in an Espinoza amicus brief.
Attorney General John O’Connor reunited with many States on an amicus brief in favor of the same religious liberty principles in Carson.
“I am proud to have joined in the effort opposing the religious discrimination occurring here,” Attorney General O’Connor stated. “And I commend the Court for its clear and straightforward ruling upholding the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Religious freedom is so incredibly important to all Americans, and I am grateful that the Court’s opinion here and in Espinoza reflect that.”
The Attorney General also submitted an amicus brief on the prevailing side in today’s decision in Shoop v. Twyford. The U.S. Supreme Court expressly relied upon this multi-state brief in holding that federal district courts cannot order states to transport prisoners on fishing expeditions for new evidence when they haven’t shown that any such evidence would even be admissible. The Court cited the Attorney Generals’ brief for the proposition that “[a] federal court order requiring a State to transport a prisoner to a public setting—here, a medical center for testing—not only delays resolution of his habeas case, but may also present serious risks to public safety.”