Supreme Court ruling on religious schools signals ‘dangerous path’ for LGBTQ rights, advocates say

A Supreme Court ruling allowing taxpayers’ money to help pay tuition at schools that provide religious education has raised concerns about the ruling’s potential implications for LGBTQ rights.

In a 6-3 vote, the court ruled Tuesday that Maine cannot bar parents from using a state-funded tuition assistance program to pay for their children’s attendance at schools. private nuns while allowing them to do so in secular private schools. Both schools named in the case have a history of homophobic and transphobic policies.

The decision in Carson v. Makin is a continuation of the conservative-majority court’s recent push to punch holes in the church-state barrier. A number of LGBTQ organizations and other gay rights supporters are sounding alarm bells over what the decision signals about the court’s direction, particularly when it comes to balancing freedom religion with the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and homosexual persons against discrimination.

Following the High Court ruling, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a statement that he was “terribly disappointed and discouraged” by the decision, which specifically affects approximately 5,000 Maine children and their families who live in rural school districts that do not have public schools. school, and therefore must rely on the tuition program to attend a private school.

He said the schools named in the lawsuit “promote one religion to the exclusion of all others, refuse to admit gay and transgender children, and openly discriminate in the hiring of teachers and staff.” . He also pledged to work with Maine Governor Janet Mills to “ensure that public money is not used to promote discrimination, bigotry and bigotry.”

“While parents have the right to send their children to such schools, it is troubling that the Supreme Court has found that parents also have the right to force the public to pay for an education that is fundamentally at odds with the values ​​we hold dear,” said Frey. said in the press release.

The two private Christian schools involved in the case — Temple Academy and Bangor Christian Schools — “frankly admit” that they discriminate against LGBTQ people, state officials wrote in a May 2021 court filing.

The 2021 Bangor Christian Handbook, for example, says that the only “legitimate meaning” of marriage is that which “units a man and a woman” and declares that “any other type of activity, identity or expression sex that falls outside of this definition of marriage” are “sinful perversions contrary to the natural purpose of God.

“Any deviation from the gender identity God created will not be accepted,” the manual states.

Temple Academy asks students and parents to sign a form acknowledging that the school adheres to a conservative evangelical ideology that includes views on marriage and homosexuality that are “often at odds” with “currently prevailing humanistic views.” in our society”.

Plaintiffs David and Amy Carson, one of two groups of parents who sued Maine over its tuition assistance program, told NBC News on Tuesday that they wanted to send their daughter to Bangor Christian because, As Amy Carson said, school beliefs “are aligned with what we have at home.

Bangor Christian executive Martha Boone declined to comment on NBC News on Wednesday. Temple Academy did not respond to a request for comment.

Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University, said Tuesday’s ruling is a “huge lossfor LGBTQ equality, adding that the ruling will allow public funds to flow to private schools that have policies that appear to conflict with public values.

“It certainly has a more direct impact on LGBT students, because these schools are well known in Maine for being quite homophobic,” Franke said. “What we see, I think, in this decision is this new tribunal bringing together several strands of its jurisprudence, or doctrine, on religious freedom, in a way that clearly elevates religious freedom rights above of all other rights,” she said.

Equality Maine, a statewide LGBTQ rights organization based in Portland, wrote in a Tweeter that he is “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision, as many religious schools “openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, promote only their beliefs, and are closed to dissenting viewpoints.”

“Because of the Supreme Court’s decision, we believe Maine has an obligation to review and change their policies and procedures to prevent public monies from flowing to religious institutions that we know of. ‘they discriminate against LGBTQ+ people,’ the group said. wrote in a separate tweet.

The implications of Tuesday’s decision remind Jenny Pizer, acting legal director of LGBTQ civil rights group Lambda Legal, of the late 1990s, when Congress passed a series of laws known as the “Charitable Choice “. According to White House records, the laws were intended to clarify the rights and responsibilities of faith-based organizations receiving federal funds.

Pizer said the laws were part of a push to expand partnerships and collaboration between government and religious agencies, which left some worried about what she called “a dangerous path of tangling government and taxpayers’ money with religion”. She said she believed Tuesday’s decision was proof that those fears were coming to fruition.

“As members of a community that has been subjected to generations of abuse based on religious condemnation of who we are, this is a very alarming time,” she said. “This decision is a continuation of a trend. This is not the start. This is not the end. It is a point on a dangerous road.

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