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Ohio School Appeals Voucher Case

October 20, 1999

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Ohio has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a federal judge’s order that temporarily bars new students from participating in Ohio’s school voucher program.

State Attorney General Betty Montgomery made the request Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. is presiding over a lawsuit brought by civil liberties groups and others who say the program violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

In August, he said only previous recipients of vouchers could obtain financial help from the state until he rules on the program’s constitutionality. Children new to the program could not get the tuition grant.

Oliver has set a Dec. 13 trial date.

The state appealed Oliver’s injunction to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 30, but never received a response.

``We are simply perplexed why the Court of Appeals has not issued any ruling (or even an explanation of its inaction),″ Montgomery wrote.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who handles emergency matters from Ohio for the nation’s highest court, today asked those who sued to respond to the state’s request by Oct. 27.

Stevens has the authority to act on the request himself, or he can refer it to the full court.

Steve Benen, spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the action ``reeks of desperation.″

``We believe this shows they aren’t confident that they will win their case,″ he said.

More than 4,000 students from kindergarten through sixth grade have signed up for as much as $2,500 in tuition vouchers for private schools in Cleveland. Most of the 56 schools are religious institutions.

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