SCOTUS Maine ruling chips away at church-state separation

In the most recent series of Supreme Court rulings released Tuesday morning, the court ruled that Maine cannot continue its state-run tuition program that currently excludes funding for religious schools. The decision is the latest in a series of cases that seek to prevent the exclusion of religious organizations from state-funded programs.

The matter is at hand Carson vs Makino, a dispute over a state program that provides assistance to families in Maine in rural communities to send children to schools in other districts that lack public secondary schools. Under the program, families can elect to sign contracts with public schools outside their home districts, or they can choose to receive tuition assistance at any eligible private school. According to the text of state law, any private school that is “a non-denominational school pursuant to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution” is acceptable.

more than half of maine 260 school districts The state does not have its own public schools largely due to its sparse population. When the two families, both of whom live in districts without public schools, opted to send their children to two private religious schools—Bangor Christian School and Temple Academy—they sued, saying that the law ” The “non-sectarian” requirement was in violation of his earlier. amendment rights. In a 6-3 decision today, the Supreme Court sided with the families, with the court’s three liberal justices dissenting.

“There’s nothing neutral about Maine’s schedule,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote In majority opinion of the case, “The state pays tuition for some students in private schools – as long as the schools are not religious. This is discrimination against religion.”

he said, according to State Law, Maine would provide assistance for attendance at any school, including certain religious institutions, whether it would “provide an education equivalent to that if their community operated a public school”—institutions that could not teach explicitly religious material.

Judges in disagreement expressed concern about the court’s direction and Increasingly clear interest in dismantling state initiatives that exclude religious institutions In the name of program neutrality.

“What a difference five years make,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor written in disagreement2017. referring to Trinity vs Comer The case in which the court ruled that Missouri state’s program refusing to grant a religious school playground while providing equal funding for non-religious programs was a violation of the First Amendment. “Today, the Court takes us to a point where the separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.”

In a similar dissent, Justice Stephen Breuer wrote of the court’s pro-religious tendencies, namely that the court has never before decided how the state should use state funds to pay for religious teaching. . “What happens once ‘might’ becomes ‘should be’?,” Breuer wrote in his dissenting opinion, “Does that change mean that the school district that pays for public schools will have to pay the same amount of money to parents who want to send their children to religious schools?”

Beyond the reach of Maine, this decision sets the precedent that when a state provides benefits to non-religious schools or institutions, regardless of public convenience, aims to replicate such a program, the same provisions should be applied to religious schools. should be extended to

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