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

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Maine may not exclude religious schools from a state tuition program. The choice, from a court that has grown exceptionally receptive to claims from religious people and groups in quite a lot of settings, was the newest in a series of rulings requiring the federal government to assist religious institutions on the identical terms as other private organizations.

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

The case, Carson v. Makin, No. 20-1088, arose from an unusual program in Maine, which requires rural communities without public secondary schools to rearrange for his or her young residents’ educations in one among two ways. They will sign contracts with nearby public schools, or they’ll pay tuition at a personal school chosen by parents as long as it’s, within the words of a state law, “a nonsectarian school in accordance with the First Amendment of the US Structure.”

Two families in Maine that send or wish to send their children to non secular schools challenged the law, saying it violated their right to freely exercise their faith.

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

The 2 schools “candidly admit that they discriminate against homosexuals, individuals who’re transgender and non-Christians,” Maine’s Supreme Court temporary said.

The case was broadly just like one from Montana decided by the court in 2020, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. In that case, the court ruled that states must allow religious schools to take part in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for almost all within the Montana case, said a provision of the state’s Structure banning aid to varsities run by churches ran afoul of the U.S. Structure’s protection of the free exercise of faith by discriminating against religious people and schools.

“A state needn’t subsidize private education,” the chief justice wrote. “But once a state decides to achieve this, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they’re religious.”

However the Montana decision turned on the faculties’ religious status, not their curriculums. There could also be a difference, Chief Justice Roberts said, between an establishment’s religious identity and its conduct.

“We acknowledge the purpose,” he wrote, “but needn’t examine it here.”

The brand new case from Maine resolved that open query.

The Supreme Court has long held that states may select to offer aid to non secular schools together with other private schools. The query within the cases from Montana and Maine was the alternative one: May states refuse to offer such aid whether it is made available to other private schools?

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