My article from NBC News on today’s Supreme Court ruling banning discrimination against religious schools in the Maine school selection program

NBC News has just published my article on today’s decision of the Supreme Court in Carson v. Makinwhich prohibits public school selection programs from discriminating against “sectarian” religious schools.

In Tuesday, The Supreme Court overturned Maine’s law which excluded most religious private schools from a voucher program implemented in such secular schools. Judgment 6-3 in Carson v. Makin is an important victory for the constitutional principle that the government cannot discriminate basis of religion. It can also help open up valuable opportunities for parents and students, especially disadvantaged people.

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled Espinoza v. Ministry of Revenue in Montana that a state voucher program it cannot exclude religious schools simply because of their “status” as religious institutions. As Chief Justice John Roberts reiterated in his opinion of the court on Tuesday, the state cannot “withhold otherwise available public benefits from religious organizations” simply because they are religious …

So far, the state of Maine has subsidized the cost of private schools, providing the equivalent of a secular public school curriculum for approximately 5,000 children living in areas (Maine state administrative units) too sparsely populated to support their own public school. However, Maine refuses to subsidize visits to private schools with a religious curriculum in these areas …

Proponents of the voucher program in Maine, including Judge Stephen Brier in his dissenting opinion, argue that this is not a case of religious discrimination, as the program does not exclude religiously affiliated schools as such, but only those that are “sectarian.” ” – who State Ministry of Education defined as an institution which “in addition to the teaching of academic subjects, promotes the faith or the system of beliefs to which it is associated and / or presents the material taught through the prism of that faith”.

This distinction makes no sense … and the court rightly rejected it. The First Amendment clearly protects not only religious beliefs and religious affiliation, but also “free exercise“Of religion (emphasis added). The word “exercise” implies that people should be free to act according to their faith – including by trying to encourage it.

The shortcomings of the status-use distinction become clear if we consider what it would mean in other contexts. Thus, if the state had passed a law that extended social benefits to adherents of all religions, but denied it to those who could “use” some of the money to “promote” their faith, almost any court would overturn it. as unconstitutional discrimination based on religion …

According to Tuesday’s ruling, the state remains free to limit vouchers to schools that do not meet educational standards that apply equally to both religious and secular schools – even if those standards contradict the beliefs of some. For example, recipient schools may need to teach students the theory of evolution, despite the fact that some religious groups reject it …

Some argue that any public aid for religious schools violates a different part of the First Amendment, the creation clause, which prohibits the state from establishing an “established” church. But non-discrimination between religious and secular institutions in no way privileges a particular faith, nor does it presuppose state approval of the religious beliefs of any denomination or compulsion to adhere to a particular faith …

In addition to justifying an important constitutional principle, Carson v. Makin is a potential benefit for the poor and disadvantaged children. Social research shows that the choice of a private school is such often especially valuable to poor and minority childrenand that some religious schools – especially Catholic schools – are particularly adept at improving the performance of disadvantaged students. You don’t have to endorse the religious doctrines of these schools (as an atheist, I don’t do that myself) to recognize the valuable opportunities they offer.

The solution also offers an opportunity to overcome today’s increasingly divisive cultural wars over education … Both red and blue states they are increasingly seeking to impose a universal dogma sponsored by the state through their public education systems. Choosing a school that includes a wide range of religious and secular opportunities allows dissidents to take their own path and creates valuable competition that parents can take advantage of.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.