Many school districts in the State of Maine lack high schools, so the children in those districts must attend another school selected by their parents. In 1873 the State of Maine enacted a tuition assistance program that offers a stipend to participating schools to partially defray the cost of educating children from districts that lack a high school. In 1981 the State of Maine enacted a law that categorically excludes sectarian schools’ from participating in the tuition assistance program.
Three sets of parents sued the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education, asserting that the exclusion of sectarian schools, from the tuition assistance program violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. On June 21, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents and held that Section 2951(2) is unconstitutional.
What is remarkable about this decision is that it is the first time that the Supreme Court has forced a state to pay for the religious education of the state’s children. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that it is permissible under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment for a state to voluntarily include religious schools in a parental voucher program. But the Court has never before ruled that it violates the Free Exercise Clause for a state to exclude religious schools from a taxpayer-funded tuition assistance program.
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Wilson Huhn, Analysis of Carson v Makin, 61 Duq. L. Rev. 50 (2023)