Supreme Court Rules Against Maine Policy Denying Christian School Aid

Update: Justices say that exempting religious schools amounts to discrimination.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Maine policy covering tuition for private schools but not religious schools violates the First Amendment.

Maine offers the tuition assistance in rural districts that do not have public schools. The challenge involved two private Christian schools, Bangor Christian Schools and Temple Academy, which didn’t meet the state’s “nonsectarian” requirement for families to qualify.

The court said such a requirement infringes on free exercise protections and that there was “nothing neutral” about the program.

“The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools— so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion,” the court ruled in a 6–3 opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts. “A State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”

The Carson v. Makin decision upholds the court’s 2020 ruling against a Montana scholarship program that also barred religious schools from receiving the funding.

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Original post (December 6, 2021): The latest Supreme Court case over public funding for religious schooling examines a policy in Maine, a state dotted with small towns too tiny to run their own public schools. Over half of the state’s school districts (officially called “school administrative units” or SAUs for short) contract with and pay tuition costs to another nearby school of the parents’ choice—public or private.

And that’s where the hangup lies. By law, Maine mandates that partnering …

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