Graybill: Public schools, religious freedom and Montana Constitution are under attack
The Billings Gazette
January 30, 2020
This past week I was in the U.S. Supreme Court’s chamber fighting to protect Montana’s public schools, stand up for religious freedom, and defend our Montana Constitution.
The case is Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, and I want you to know that I’m proud to be part of this fight to defend our right to a quality public education.
You also need to know that Congressman Greg Gianforte and Senator Steve Daines turned against our public schools in this case and attacked our Montana Constitution.
They asked the U.S. Supreme Court to side with out-of-state activists so they can send our public dollars to pay for private, religious schools — placing the state’s stamp of approval on some religions over others.
Under our constitution, this isn’t allowed to happen, so Gianforte, Daines, and a Virginia-based law firm are trying to use the courts to erase parts of our constitution. Gianforte and Daines want these activists to win, and our constitution’s protections for public schools and religious freedom to lose.
This case is about our Montana Constitution and its unwavering commitment to public education.
Montana’s groundbreaking 1972 Constitution — drafted by citizens, not legislators or politicians — guarantees our right to a quality public education, the right to individual dignity, to privacy, and to a clean and healthy environment.
The constitution makes citizenship in Montana special.
I was taken aback when I learned Gianforte and Daines asked the U.S. Supreme Court to gut our constitution, and slandered our constitutional delegates for their work to safeguard our Montana values.
Gianforte and Daines argue that Montana’s commitment to protecting public education and protecting religious freedom from undue influence by the state was actually anti-religious and “bigotry.”
The actual history, as told by the delegates themselves, couldn’t be further from the truth. Montana’s delegates saw public education as the state’s highest purpose, and worried about what might happen if the government could favor one religion over another using state funding.
It’s a shocking claim for Gianforte and Daines to argue Montana’s religious freedom and quality public education for Montana kids is actually disguised bigotry.
As part of the team defending our constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court, I take our constitutional history seriously. I listen to the framers themselves, in their own words, not what a Virginia law firm is trying to say about them.
I’m running for Montana attorney general because we need a fighter, an advocate, who takes our constitution and its values seriously. Montana needs an advocate who will stand up for Montana kids, and who will never waiver in defending our public education and religious freedom.
As your attorney general, I pledge to uphold the legacy of our Montana constitution that protects our values and our rights. I’ll never turn my back on the constitution or side with out of state activists. And I certainly won’t let our own elected officials attack our constitution behind our backs without fighting back.
It’s time for an attorney general who shares our values and works for us. Please join me in bringing real leadership back to Montana.