The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the two Christian families that filed a lawsuit and subsequent appeal against the exclusion of religious institutions in Maine’s tuition assistance program. On June 21, six of the nine supreme court judges voted that the state cannot prevent parents from using public subsidies to send their children to religious schools.
In Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court held that private RELIGIOUS schools are entitled to government funding if they provide funding to private secular schools.
SCOTUS just gave religious schools a right to taxpayer funding. pic.twitter.com/j8xzNomjtN
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) June 21, 2022
Maine had prohibited families from using funds designed for students who do not have access to a local public school to study at private religious schools that incorporate a religious perspective into the curriculum.
Maine is a sparsely populated rural state with several counties. Half of its districts do not have public high schools, so they established a school-choice program long ago. The state-subsidized the average tuition cost for students admitted to a private school in their district. Parents could avail themselves of this for a secular school or a religious school of their choice until 1981, when Maine banned "sectarian" schools from the program. The statute "was enacted in response to an opinion by the Maine attorney general taking the position that public funding of private religious schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."
In the ruling of Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court said that the First Amendment never uses the term "separation of church and state." The system that Maine had implemented was unconstitutional since, according to the court, the provision of the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, something that the Maine system did not adhere to by paying tuition for only the students who did not go to religious schools.
The case and its ruling are very similar to Espinoza v. Montana Department Of Revenue, which was more closely contested, with five votes in favor and four against. The High Court upheld a tax incentive program for donors to a scholarship fund that provided money to Christian schools for tuition fees.
Justices John Roberts and five other judges who voted to allow taxpayer funding for religious schools are considered conservative Christians. The liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Stephen G. Breyer expressed their dissent with the ruling. Sotomayor added, "Today, the court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation."
Rebecca S. Pringle, the President of the National Education Association, said, “The Supreme Court has once again undermined public schools and the students they serve in favor of providing funding for private religious schools that serve only a few and often discriminate against students and employees. Forcing American taxpayers to fund private religious education—even when those private schools fail to meet education standards, intentionally discriminate against students, or use public funds to promote religious training, worship, and instruction—erodes the foundation of our democracy and harms students."
All students deserve a great public education.
But with its radical ruling in Carson v. Makin, SCOTUS again undermined public schools & the students they serve in favor of funding private religious schools that serve only a few & often discriminate against students & employees.
— Becky Pringle (@BeckyPringle) June 21, 2022
Observers point out that the conservatism of the Supreme Court is increasingly assertive, especially in the preference of the rights related to religious practice. Since the Trump presidency, whose electoral base was, among other groups, primarily conservative Christians, judges have become highly receptive to complaints from Christian groups about the alleged hostility of the Government towards religion, not only in the context of education.
The administration of US President Joe Biden had sided with Maine and opposed the ruling. The state does not hinder the practice of religion but has merely decided not to support religious practice financially.