A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to Texas’ strict religious exemption law.
The court ruled on Friday that the state cannot claim religious exemptions from its school-aid rules.
The Texas Tribune reports: The Texas Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lawsuit by the state’s largest teachers union to challenge the state education department’s decision to impose a state religious exemption on students who attend public universities.
The school-accountability law requires private schools and charter schools to offer religious education in a public school setting and requires that all students must be enrolled in at least three religious organizations, including a school.
The law was approved by the legislature in 2013.
The unions lawyers argued that the law violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is intended to protect the rights of religious believers.
The Supreme Court, in its majority opinion, ruled that Texas’ law is not narrowly tailored to allow religious exemption and it would be unconstitutional for the state to enforce its policy against private institutions.
The state appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ruling by the full court said the school-assistance law is “a valid exercise of state power under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
The Texas Teachers Association filed the lawsuit in 2013, saying the law infringes on teachers’ First Amendment rights.
The teachers union also argued that private schools have a “special need” for religious instruction and that the school district violated the separation of church and state by requiring students to attend a religious organization.
The bill has faced opposition from several religious groups and some school districts, who have argued that allowing private schools to provide religious instruction would lead to religious schools being able to provide similar instruction to nonreligious students.
The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also raised concerns about the law, saying that it violates students’ rights to free expression and association and is an affront to the fundamental right to religious freedom.