On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the government cannot ban taxpayer-funded tuition assistance for private education from being used by citizens for private religious education.
In the case Carson v. Makin, SCOTUS ruled 6-3 along ideological lines that the state of Maine’s tuition assistance program, which barred guardians from using the funds for private religious education, was unconstitutional as it violated the First Amendment.
“BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court just ruled in a 6-3 decision that preventing school choice families from taking their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to religious private schools violated the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment,” school choice proponent Corey DeAngelis tweeted.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts opined, “Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
“In short, the prohibition on status-based discrimination under the Free Exercise Clause is not a permission to engage in use-based discrimination,” Roberts added.
Prior to oral arguments last spring, SCOTUS Blog explained that the case was brought by two families who wanted “to send their children to Christian schools in the state” and asked for the help of Maine’s tuition assistance program. Those plaintiffs argued “that the state’s exclusion of schools that provide religious instruction from the program violates the Constitution.”
“Although the justices’ ruling will directly affect fewer than 5,000 students in Maine, the court’s eventual decision could have a significant impact on public funding for religious education well beyond the state’s border,” SCOTUS Blog also noted.
For its part, Maine argued that allowing tax dollars to go toward private schools, such as certain Christian schools, could trample upon the idea that “a public education is both defined by inclusion and tolerance, and reflective of the diversity of our students and our community.”
SCOTUS Blog noted that one of the schools in question hired only born-again Christians and had an anti-LGBTQ educational agenda, and as a result, the state was not required to “fund their educational program as the substantive equivalent of a public education.”
The Supreme Court disagreed with those arguments. Now, supporters of parents’ rights, religious freedom, and school choice see the victory as monumental in its potential ramifications across the country.
This is a developing story: please check for back updates.