On Thursday the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a ruling in the lawsuit against New Hampshire's business tax credit scholarship program. Rather than rule on the constitutionality of the program itself, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs were not directly harmed by the program, and therefore could not sue.
The program gives businesses a tax credit if they contribute to a scholarship fund for low-income students who wish to attend private schools and/or be home-schooled.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit January 9, 2013 charging that the program violates the New Hampshire Constitution, which forbids the use of tax money for private religious schools.
The Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs' rights were not directly harmed, and therefore the plaintiffs did not have the right to sue. The Court ruled unconstitutional a 2012 law that gave taxpayers broad rights to sue the state.
Supporters of the tax credit scholarship program praised the ruling. Rep. William O'Brien (R-Mont Vernon), a champion of the program, said that the ruling protects parents and students from "vested education industry interests trying to corral all students into failed government schools."
Gilles Bissonnette, lead lawyer for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, cautioned the ruling will have broad consequences beyond the scholarship program.
"In striking down taxpayer standing, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has made it far more difficult for the people of this state to constrain the actions of government bodies when those actions violate sacred constitutional rights," said Bissonnette.
Do you have an opinion on the ruling? CLICK HERE to post your thoughts on our site.
CLICK HERE to read coverage from Seacoast Online.