Supreme Court to hear Maine ban on religious school funding

The Supreme Court has decided it will hear a case against Maine’s ban on using financial aid through a state program to attend religious schools, the court announced Friday.

The families disputed a Maine Department of Education policy that states that public tuition for families who do not live near a public school cannot be used to send children to religious schools, but can be used to send them to public or private schools.

The plaintiffs in the case, Carson v. Makin, filed a petition earlier this year with the Supreme Court, which was granted on Friday. It is one of 10 cases the High Court added to its list on Friday as it closed its nine-month term.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey (D) argued in a statement reported by The Associated Press that religious schools are excluded from public tuition ‘because the education they provide is not equivalent’ to public schools.

“Parents are free to send their children to such schools if they wish, but not with public funds. I’m confident the Supreme Court will recognize that nothing in the Constitution requires Maine to include religious schools in its public education system,” Frey said, according to AP.

All lower courts ruled in favor of the state.

The Institute For Justice, a society representing families, said in a Press release that it could be a “historic case” for school choice.

“By excluding religion – and only religion – from its tuition assistance program, Maine is violating the US Constitution,” said Michael Bindas, the group’s lead attorney.

“The state categorically prohibits parents from choosing schools that provide religious education. It is unconstitutional,” he added.

As the conservative-majority court considered the school funding case and others on Friday, it declined to hear another case involving a Washington state florist who refused to serve the wedding of a same-sex couple, leaving in place a lower court ruling that the company had engaged in unlawful discrimination.

At least four of the court’s nine judges must vote to hear a case before the court can consider it.

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