Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in the case of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. The case hinges upon the issue of “standing”, which is a lawyer’s way of saying, do the people who have filed this law suit have the legal right to do so. But, the answer to that question is not the reason for this post.
First, let me explain the facts.
Arizona has a provision in its tax code that gives an individual taxpayer a tax credit of up to $500 per year for contributions he or she makes Student Tuition Organizations, or, STO’s. The STO’s then use the contributions received to provide scholarships to students. Many of the students receiving these scholarships use the money to attend religious schools.
A group of Arizona taxpayers sued claiming that this tax credit was a violation of the Establishment Clause, i.e., a violation of the “separation of church and state”. (Yes, I know that those words appear nowhere in the Constitution, but, please stay with me.) In other words, the taxpayers claimed that the net effect of this tax credit was that the State of Arizona was using public money to fund religious schools.
In deciding that the folks that sued lacked “standing” Mr. Justice Kennedy, in a 5-4 decision stated (at page 20) that the position taken by the taxpayers who challenged the law,
assumes that income should be treated as if it were government property even if it has not come into the tax collector’s hands.
According to Mr. Justice Kennedy, money isn’t government property until it is lawfully collected by the government.
Until then, it belongs to you.