One of the privileges and most important obligations of the Office of the Attorney General is protecting the Constitutional rights of our citizens. Those rights are the underpinning of our Republic, and few rights are as prominent in our everyday lives as the First Amendment, covering freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and other critical aspects of our self-expression. This week, our office led the fight in a very important First Amendment battle in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Loffman v. California Department of Education, a federal district court upheld a California law that provides public funds for education to parents that can be used for their children’s private education, but specifically precludes the funds from being used for faith-based schools. This discriminates against faith-based education and blatantly excludes them from the opportunity to meet the needs of students who cannot, for whatever reason, be served by public education.
I instructed my Solicitor General to draft a brief asking the Ninth Circuit to overturn the confusing and erroneous California federal district court decision. I’m grateful to have the support of 21 other Attorneys General across the country who also saw the clear Constitutional problems with the lower court’s decision and signed on in support of my efforts.
While our Constitution provides for a separation of Church and State and that our government shall not promote or mandate a specific faith, that doesn’t mean that our government can discriminate against religion. Loffman blatantly violates the First Amendment and flouts three recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have repeatedly held that government cannot condition generally available public funding on religious status.
The law is clear. Regardless of how a government defines it, generally available funding cannot be withheld solely based on religious affiliation. The Supreme Court has gone to great lengths to stamp out that type of religious discrimination. We will always defend the First Amendment rights of citizens.
The full brief can be read here.