Press Release

U.S. Supreme Court revives textbook lending program New Mexico Supreme Court told to give low-income, minority kids a second chance

Media Contact

Melinda Skea 202-349-7224 media@becketlaw.org

Additional Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court this morning told the Supreme Court of New Mexico to reconsider a ruling discriminating against low-income and minority children. A New Mexico textbook program was designed to promote equal access to a quality education for low-income and minority children, yet the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against it because some of those kids attend religiously affiliated schools. Today’s order protects the right of religious organizations and all New Mexico students to participate in government programs without discrimination.

This is the Supreme Court’s second such ruling in two days. Yesterday, in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the U.S. Supreme Court protected religious organizations’ right to participate in Missouri’s “safe playgrounds” initiative. Both the Missouri and New Mexico cases challenged Blaine Amendments, which are 19th century provisions in many state constitutions that discriminate against religious organizations—especially those focused on serving vulnerable populations. Today’s order requires the New Mexico Supreme Court to give the textbook program “further consideration in light of Trinity Lutheran.”

“In preventing skinned knees or ensuring kids learn their A-B-C’s, states are getting a clear message from the U.S. Supreme Court: they can’t exclude people from participating in government programs because of their religion,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at Becket. “The Court’s back-to-back rulings prove that it shouldn’t matter what your faith is—everyone has the right to participate in society on equal footing.”

Becket is defending the New Mexico Association of Nonpublic Schools and the state’s textbook program. Both the trial court and New Mexico Court of Appeals protected the program, but in 2015, the New Mexico Supreme Court disagreed. The New Mexico Supreme Court must now reconsider its ruling in light of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Melinda Skea at media@becketlaw.org or 202-349-7224. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.