The New York Times reported– “The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Maine may not exclude religious schools from a state tuition program. The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal justices in dissent. The case, Carson v. Makin, No. 20-1088, arose from an unusual program in Maine, which requires rural communities without public secondary schools to arrange for their young residents’ education in one of two ways. They can sign contracts with nearby public schools, or they can pay tuition at a private school chosen by parents so long as it is, in the words of state law, “a nonsectarian school in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” Two families in Maine that send or want to send their children to religious schools challenged the law, saying it violated their right to freely exercise their faith.
The case was broadly similar to one from Montana decided by the court in 2020, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. In that case, the court ruled that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the Montana case, said a provision of the state’s Constitution banning aid to schools run by churches ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion by discriminating against religious people and schools. “A state need not subsidize private education,” the chief justice wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” But the Montana decision turned on the schools’ religious status, not their curriculums. There may be a difference, Chief Justice Roberts said, between an institution’s religious identity and its conduct. “We acknowledge the point,” he wrote, “but need not examine it here.”
The new case from Maine resolved that open question. The Supreme Court has long held that states may choose to provide aid to religious schools along with other private schools. The question in the cases from Montana and Maine was the opposite one: May states refuse to provide such aid if it is made available to other private schools”.
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs and Washington director, hailed the decision. “Agudath Israel has been fighting religious discrimination for decades, and we will continue to do so. We are thrilled that the Supreme Court has made clear that discrimination against religious instruction in state aid programs is a constitutional violation. Other states that have ‘no aid’ provisions in their state constitutions and law can effectively feel free to now enact programs that encourage or provide assistance to religious schools on an equal basis with other nonpublic schools.”
“This is a significant win for parents in Maine and across the country who will now have more freedom to choose private and religious schools for their children,” said Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel of America’s national director of state relations. “Today’s ruling endorses Agudah’s longtime position that states may not bar families from using state aid at the school of their choice simply because they choose a school that includes a religious curriculum.”
The obvious thought for many in Klal Yisrael is will this come to our schools across the country. Cutting down the cost of tuition for families would be of major assistance for many but the question must be asked, in a liberal-leaning country, especially the states where Klal Yisrael is primarily located throughout America do we want to put ourselves further onto Government reliance?
Agudath Israel Statement Applauding Supreme Court Ruling in Carson v. Makin