Irreparable Damage Will Occur If Unconstitutional Program Moves Forward
Las Vegas, NV – Today, the Plaintiffs in Duncan v. Nevada asked the Court to immediately prevent implementation of the unconstitutional voucher program. The Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction filed November 23, 2015 in the Eighth Judicial District Court details the reasons SB 302 violates the Nevada Constitution and explains the irreparable damage the Plaintiffs and other Nevada taxpayers will suffer if the voucher program is allowed to move forward.
“The Nevada taxpayers in Duncan are standing up and asking the Court to immediately block implementation of this unconstitutional program. SB 302 funds private religious indoctrination, and funds private religious schools which operate with discriminatory admissions policies, all at the expense of the existing system of public schools and public instruction. This directly contravenes the Nevada Constitution and more than 130 years of state-law precedent,” said Amy M. Rose, ACLU of Nevada legal director.
Article XI, Section 10, of the Nevada Constitution plainly states: “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal shall be used for sectarian purpose.” The voucher program, however, uses public money for religious instruction and other religious functions and activities at religious schools, in violation of this strict constitutional prohibition. With over a century of Nevada precedent and Nevada Attorney General opinions, the motion makes clear that voucher program funds are public funds. Any pass-through bank account for funds that the state continues to own and control is a fiction that does not alter the public character of the funds.
Additionally, Article XI, Section 2, directs that “[t]he legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools” that must not offer “instruction of a sectarian character” but must instead be open equally for “general attendance” by all schoolchildren. By funding private and religious schools that discriminate in admissions through the voucher program, the state creates a two-track system of publicly financed education, in which educational opportunities are dictated by religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Moreover, religious schools mandate worship, teach religious doctrine, and require even otherwise secular subjects to be taught in ways that conform to religious doctrine rather than Nevada’s academic standards.
If permitted to proceed, the program will soon direct potentially millions of dollars in state educational funds to religious schools—including schools requiring students to participate in religious instruction and worship, and schools that discriminate in admissions on the basis of protected characteristics such as personal religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and pregnancy status.
Article XI Sections 2 and 10 of the Nevada Constitution require the state to provide for a robust system of secular public instruction through schools that are open equally to all students; the state may not fund religious instruction, religious schools, or schools that selectively admit students based on their faith or other exclusionary religious criteria. The voucher program cannot be squared with these clear constitutional mandates.
The ACLU of Nevada is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to the defense and advancement of civil liberties and civil rights for all people in Nevada.