Supreme Court Justices Support Religious Rights In Maine Education Case | Local News

Supreme Court Justices Support Religious Rights In Maine Education Case

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Conservative Supreme Court justices challenged a Maine program that provides tuition fees for private schools but excludes religious schools.

The program provides tuition assistance for students without a local public school to attend private institutions – as long as the funding is not used for religious or “sectarian” education. In Supreme Court oral argument on Wednesday in Carson v. Makin, it emerged that a number of judges believed it violated the Constitution.

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“You discriminate between religions based on their beliefs,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, pointing out that if one religion taught the same as a public school but a different religion was taught differently, the first could participate in the program. but not the other.

Blake Fox, 19, of Washington, listens to a live broadcast of the arguments of the United States Supreme Court in Carson v. Makin in Washington, December 8, 2021.
(REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz)

“So it’s the beliefs of the two religions that determine whether or not schools will receive the funds,” said Roberts. “And we said that it is the most fundamental violation of the religious clauses of the First Amendment for the government to distinguish between religions on the basis of their doctrine.”

Maine Deputy Chief Attorney General Christopher Taub argued that the state should not fund anything that inculcates religious beliefs, and that providing money for secular private schools does not.

“They’re not discriminated against, they just aren’t given a benefit that no family in Maine is entitled to,” Taub said.

Taub compared funding for education as long as it isn’t religious to federal government funding for family planning until the money is spent on abortions.

Lori Gadreau asks a question at Loranger Memorial School in Old Orchard Beach, Maine on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

Lori Gadreau asks a question at Loranger Memorial School in Old Orchard Beach, Maine on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
(Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

US Assistant Attorney General Malcolm Stewart sided with Maine, which said it was wrong to portray the issue as one of discrimination.

“It’s about what the government has to subsidize … it’s not about the government imposing positive restrictions on religion or denying benefits generally applicable to people based on religious exercise outside the program.” , said Stewart.

Justice Clarence Thomas challenged the qualification of the funding as a grant or a benefit, given that Maine requires children to attend school, so the school’s program of choice simply allows students to comply. to the law.

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Justice Brett Kavanaugh insisted that Maine’s curriculum discriminates by treating religious schools differently from secular schools.

“Discrimination against all religions in relation to secularism is in itself a kind of discrimination which, according to the Court, is odious to the Constitution,” he declared.

Students board buses at East End Community School in Portland, Maine.

Students board buses at East End Community School in Portland, Maine.
(Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Judge Elena Kagan, however, retorted that “the state generally does not have to subsidize the exercise of a right” such as freedom of expression.

“So why is religion any different? ” she asked. “This state doesn’t want to, so why does the state have to subsidize the exercise of a right?

Judge Stephen Breyer appeared to defend Maine, but for a different reason.

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“It’s discriminatory against religion,” Breyer said, but warned that forcing Maine to donate money to religious institutions opens up the state to all kinds of problems that could result, such as those they hire.

Advocates on both sides of the issue have admitted that the current legal debate is muddled. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot ban taxpayer financial aid in a generally available program of going to religious schools. It was considered a major victory for defenders of religious freedom. Maine’s curriculum includes different language on religious education which, if maintained, could effectively override the earlier ruling.

Shannon Bream of Fox News contributed to this report.

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