The Supreme Court seemed sharply divided Wednesday over a state program that diverts tax payments to religious schools, leaving Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose questions aligned him with neither ideological camp, likely to cast the pivotal vote.
The Arizona program provides individuals a 100% tax credit of up to $500 for payments to state-authorized “school tuition organizations” that, in turn, award scholarships to private schools they specify.
…Paul Bender, an Arizona State University law professor representing the plaintiffs, said the organizations “are, on the government’s behalf, distributing tax revenues” because their funds would otherwise go to the state treasury.
“I have some difficulty that any money that the government doesn’t take from me is still the government’s money,” Justice Kennedy said. “If you reach a certain age, you can get a card and go to certain restaurants and they give you 10% credit. I think it would be rather offensive for the cashier to say, ‘And be careful how you spend my money,’ ” said the 74-year-old justice.
Where Justice Kennedy joked, Justice Samuel Alito seemed incensed.
“There is a very important philosophical point here,” he said. “You think that all the money belongs to the government except to the extent that it deigns to allow private people to keep some of it.”