BYU’s Education Law and Policy Institute and the Education Law Association recently hosted a webinar debating the separation of church and state and its impact on school funding and support. The webinar was organized by the McKay School of Education’s EdLF professors.
The two panelists, Charles J. Russo from the University of Dayton and Martha McCarthy from Loyola Marymount University, discussed the Supreme Court’s decision in two cases that deal directly with the First Amendment and its clause guaranteeing free exercise of religion. In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc v. Comer, a preschool was denied funds to purchase recycled tires for their playground because of their status as a religious school. In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, families were denied the use of a tax-credit program for scholarships to attend religious schools. Russo and McCarthy have differing interpretations of the separation between church and state, and each has studied this topic extensively.
Russo is currently the Joseph Panzer chair in education in the UD School of Education and Health Sciences as well as research professor of law at the University of Dayton School of Law. Both Russo and McCarthy have received the McGhehey award for lifetime achievement from the Education Law Association, and each has served as president of ELA. Both are on the editorial board for the David O. McKay School’s Education and Law Journal. In addition to this, McCarthy is a presidential professor at Loyola Marymount University and a chancellor’s professor emerita at Indiana University. Her most recent book Legal Rights of School Leaders, Teachers, and Students was published in 2019 and, among other topics, discusses First Amendment issues.
During the webinar, the two panelists discussed the rulings in the Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza v. Montana cases and the implications of the precedents set by each decision. Russo and McCarthy then answered audience questions about the cases and about possible changes to public and private education in the future.
Writer: Camille Ladd