Education, Governance Education, California, Pre K-12
November 2nd, 2023 2 Minute Read Press Release

New Amicus Brief: State Agencies Cannot Discriminate Against Religious Institutions

New York, NY – The Manhattan Institute has filed an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Loffman v. California Department of Education. Ilya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, summarizes the case and the amicus brief:

"In California, public funding is available to educate children with disabilities in private schools that will best serve students’ individual needs. But because such schools must certify they are 'nonsectarian,' state law prohibits families sending their kids to religious schools from accessing these otherwise generally available funds. A group of parents filed suit, arguing among other things that the law violates the Free Exercise Clause by excluding religious institutions and individuals from a public benefit solely because they are religious. The district court disagreed, granting the state defendants’ motions to dismiss.

"Now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit, the Manhattan Institute has filed an amicus brief supporting the parents challenging the state law. We argue that California discriminates against students’ educational programs expressly and exclusively because of their religious affiliation and that no compelling interest justifies California’s sweeping, opportunity-crushing rule."

Shapiro also offers the following comment:

"This case should be a slam dunk given recent Supreme Court jurisprudence: if a state agency makes a benefit generally available, it can’t deny that benefit on the basis of religion. Here the case is doubly sympathetic—special-needs kids—but it shouldn’t be so hard for the government to treat everyone equally!"

Read the full amicus brief here.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. He and MI senior fellow Nicole Stelle Garnett are both available for interviews on this case.

Please direct all media inquiries to press officer Nicolas Abouchedid at


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