February 27, 2024

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A High Court win for school choice, religious liberty

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The U. S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, found the State of Maine violated the First Amendment by denying parents tuition assistance to send their children to religious schools.

Chief Justice John Roberts authored the decision on Carson v Makin, joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. Dissenting were Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

School districts in Maine are generally operated by cities.  State law permits cities to provide tuition assistance to parents in lieu of hosting a school district, providing the chosen school is not used for sectarian, or religious training. Roberts found that to be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment:

“Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise.”

The ruling is being applauded by supporters of school choice and religious liberty issues.

Leslie Hiner is Director of Legal Defense and Education Center for EdChoice, a leading advocate for school choice:

“Children and families in Maine and across the country are cheering the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Carson v. Makin, holding that a provision of a state law prohibiting parents from using publicly funded tuition payments at religious schools that teach from a faith viewpoint is unconstitutional.

“This ruling affirms that parents should be able to choose a school that is compatible with their values or that honor and respect their values. By shutting out parents with certain values, that’s discrimination run rampant.

“In a school choice program, a state cannot prohibit a parent from choosing a private school just because the school is religious, and as a result of today’s ruling, a state cannot prohibit a parent from choosing a private school just because the school educates its students in their faith, presents subjects from a faith viewpoint, and trains students to live the values of their faith.

“Thankfully, Carson will finally put an end to a long, tortured history of anti-immigrant, anti-religious action that has hindered private school choice.”

James Franko is President of the Kansas Policy Institute. He sees the Court’s ruling as more momentum for the choice movement:

“The decision confirms what we’ve known through Espinoza, Trinity Lutheran, and Zelman – properly structured educational choice programs pass constitutional muster and put parents in the driver’s seat. It is another sign that everyone from Supreme Court justices to parents understands that the future of education is driven by expanded choice.”

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