Maine’s religious schools just won a Supreme Court victory

The United States Supreme Court released a decision this week that found in favor of religious schools on tuition assistance.

How does the Tuition Assistance Program work?

Many rural towns in Maine do not have access to public schools, so they have implemented tuition assistance programs, paying tuition to public and private schools in the area so that students in their community have access to education. For example, I live in Orrington, which has a K-8 school in the community, but no high school. Residents have a choice of area high schools, including Bangor, Brewer, and others, that they can attend, with tuition paid by the city. In many cities, various private schools are included in the curriculum, but not if they promote religion.

Why were religious schools excluded from the program?

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said about 5,000 Maine children live in these types of districts that don’t have a public school or a contract with a school in a neighboring district. This is why the tuition assistance program is in place, to enable these children to have access to free public education. But, he says, religious schools should not be included because they “by definition do not provide the equivalent of a public education” and often do not reflect the diversity found in public schools.

They 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. 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 contrary to the values ​​that we are expensive.

He expressed disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday and said he would speak to Governor Janet Mills about it in the future.

What was the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States?

The original case was brought by parents who applied for tuition assistance to send their children to Bangor Christian Schools and Temple Academy. Both schools are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, but they were not eligible for the assistance program because they are not considered “non-sectarian”. The measure was repeatedly rejected until it reached the United States Supreme Court.

Tuesday’s ruling said Maine’s “non-sectarian” requirement for otherwise generally available funds violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which protects against “indirect coercion or sanctions on the free exercise of religion, not just outright bans”. In addition, the decision states that the measure violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Read all US Supreme Court decision here.

This decision, from the highest court, could now open similar discussions in other states, with similar programs.

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