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June 22, 2022

Supreme Court Sides with Religious Schools

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Maine violated the First Amendment when it excluded religious schools from a state-funded tuition aid program.

Chief Justice John Roberts said Maine’s program “operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise.”

The Supreme Court sided with two families who had challenged the program because it was unconstitutional.

“‘A State need not subsidize private education,’ we concluded, ‘[b]ut once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,'” Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion, citing the decision in 2020’s Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented, said the majority opinion “pays almost no attention” to the first clause of the First Amendment.

“[W]e are today a Nation of more than 330 million people who ascribe to over 100 different religions. In that context, state neutrality with respect to religion is particularly important. The Religion Clauses give Maine the right to honor that neutrality by choosing not to fund religious schools as part of its public school tuition program. I believe the majority is wrong to hold the contrary,” Breyer said.

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