Several families from Maine are taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court over a state ban that prohibits students from receiving tuition funding because they attend a religious school.
According to Faithwire, the state of Maine has financially supported parents from small towns in sending their children to the public or private school of their choice since 1873. Students wanting to attend a religious school, however, are exempt.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that students are eligible for the tuition funding as long as they attend a non-religious school.
The families speaking out against the exclusion are backed by attorneys with the Institute for Justice (IJ) and First Liberty Institute who have filed a lawsuit against the state of Maine.
IJ Senior Attorney Michael Bindas said that the state implemented ban is “unconstitutional”.
“By singling out religion—and only religion—for exclusion from its tuition assistance program, Maine violates the U.S. Constitution,” Bindas argued. “Parents deserve the right to choose the school that is best for their children, whether it’s a school that focuses on STEM instruction, offers language immersion, or provides robust instruction in the arts.”
“Maine correctly allows parents to choose such schools—or virtually any other school they think will best serve their kids,” he added. “But the state flatly bans parents from choosing schools that offer religious instruction. That is unconstitutional.”
One couple, Amy and Dave Carson wanted to send their daughter to Bangor Christian Schools, a private, nonprofit school in Maine that supports their beliefs.
The state’s department of education, however, says that while Bangor Christian is accredited, it is disqualified from tuition assistance because it’s “sectarian,” “instilling a Biblical worldview in its students” and features religious instruction with its curriculum.
Meanwhile, Angela and Troy Nelson wanted to send their children — who are currently in a tuition approved secular school— to the Christian school, Temple Academy.
Like Bangor Christian, however, Temple Academy is also excluded from educational benefits since it provides faith-based instruction.
Lea Patterson, an attorney with First Liberty Institute explained that Maine “has rejected parental choice in education and allowed religious discrimination to persist,” for 40 years.
“The Supreme Court should act now so yet another generation of schoolchildren is not deprived of desperately needed educational opportunity and the right to freely exercise their religion,” she continued.
IJ President and General Counsel Scott Bullock also chimed in, saying, “The Supreme Court taking this case and ruling in favor of the parents will ensure that educational choice programs can provide a wide range of school options—whether public or private, religious or non-religious—that enable parents to find a school that best meets their children’s individual needs. Now more than ever, it’s time to expand educational opportunities for all families.”
Photo courtesy: Jeswin Thomas/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.