Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist Has Done More for Parental Choice Than Any Other Judge in America’s History

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On behalf of the entire school choice movement and the many thousands of children that school choice has benefitted, I express deep sorrow over the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who served our nation for over a third of a century on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Regardless of how his other decisions are viewed, it is a cornerstone of a proud judicial legacy that no judge has done more for parental choice than Chief Justice Rehnquist.


Starting with his 5-4 majority in ”’Mueller v. Allen”’ in 1983, a decision that upheld tuition tax credits in Minnesota, Rehnquist crafted a judicial standard that was both in keeping with the original intent of the First Amendment and hospitable to school choice. That commonsense standard held that programs that are neutral toward religion and allow third parties to determine where to direct education funding do not offend the prohibition against establishment of religion.

The Court applied that standard 19 years later n the landmark ”’Zelman v. Simmons-Harris”’ decision, again authored by Rehnquist. That decision upheld the Cleveland school choice program and created tangible hope for the first time for thousands of children trapped in inadequate schools.

With the passing of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. two of the five justices who formed the Zelman majority are no longer on the Court. We hope that the justices chosen to replace them will honor the cherished constitutional tradition of parental autonomy.

All Americans are in Chief Justice Rehnquist’s debt. We will miss him and will honor his memory by working to expand educational opportunities for children who need them desperately.

”’Clint Bolick is the president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice, based in Phoenix, AZ 85018 See more at”’