Supreme Court Rejects Maine’s Ban on Aid to Religious Schools

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court dominated on Tuesday that Maine might not exclude non secular colleges from a state tuition program. The resolution, from a court docket that has grown exceptionally receptive to claims from non secular folks and teams in a wide range of settings, was the most recent in a collection of rulings requiring the federal government to support non secular establishments on the identical phrases as different personal organizations.

The vote was 6 to 3, with the court docket’s three liberal justices in dissent.

The case, Carson v. Makin, No. 20-1088, arose from an uncommon program in Maine, which requires rural communities with out public secondary colleges to prepare for his or her younger residents’ educations in considered one of two methods. They can signal contracts with close by public colleges, or they will pay tuition at a non-public faculty chosen by mother and father as long as it’s, within the phrases of a state legislation, “a nonsectarian school in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Two households in Maine that ship or need to ship their kids to non secular colleges challenged the legislation, saying it violated their proper to freely train their religion.

One of the faculties at subject within the case, Temple Academy in Waterville, Maine, says it expects its lecturers “to integrate biblical principles with their teaching in every subject” and teaches college students “to spread the word of Christianity.” The different, Bangor Christian Schools, says it seeks to develop “within each student a Christian worldview and Christian philosophy of life.”

The two colleges “candidly admit that they discriminate against homosexuals, individuals who are transgender and non-Christians,” Maine’s Supreme Court brief said.

The case was broadly related to one from Montana determined by the court docket in 2020, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. In that case, the court docket dominated that states should permit non secular colleges to take part in applications that present scholarships to college students attending personal colleges.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for almost all within the Montana case, mentioned a provision of the state’s Constitution banning support to colleges run by church buildings ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s safety of the free train of faith by discriminating towards non secular folks and colleges.

“A state need not subsidize private education,” the chief justice wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

But the Montana resolution turned on the faculties’ non secular standing, not their curriculums. There could also be a distinction, Chief Justice Roberts mentioned, between an establishment’s non secular id and its conduct.

“We acknowledge the point,” he wrote, “but need not examine it here.”

The new case from Maine resolved that open question.

The Supreme Court has lengthy held that states might select to present support to non secular colleges together with different personal colleges. The question within the circumstances from Montana and Maine was the other one: May states refuse to present such support whether it is made accessible to different personal colleges?

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