The Supreme Court drilled a hole in the wall separating the church and the state in Carson v. Makin

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Maine should fund religious education as part of a school voucher program that pays for tuition for students in rural states. In the course of the judgment of the Court in Carson v. Makin breaks one of the basic rules separating the church from the state.

The decision was 6-3, along the partisan line.

The specific program in question in Carson is unusual for Maine. About 5,000 students in rural Maine, where it is not profitable for the state to run a public school, receive training vouchers that can be used to pay for private education. Maine law stipulates that these vouchers can only be used in “non-sectarian” schools, not religious ones.

Carson repealed this law, which excludes religious schools from the Maine voucher program, and this decision could have far-reaching consequences far beyond the several thousand Maine students who benefit from these tuition subsidies.

Not so long ago, the Court required the government remain neutral on matters of religion – requirement arising from the order of the First Amendment, the government “it must not pass a law that respects the establishment of religion. ” In practice, this meant that the government could neither impose burdens on religious institutions that it did not impose on others, nor could it actively subsidize religion.

Carson reverses this rule of neutrality by arguing that government programs favor those that exclude religious institutions involved in “discrimination against religion” that violates the Constitution.

At the same time, however, Carson it also contains significant language, limiting the scope of this new rule. If the government cannot create social programs that exclude religion, then according to the most extreme version of this argument, it is not clear why traditional public schools – which provide secular but not religious education – are constitutional. After all, secular public schools are state institutions that maintain religion neutrality. And according to the new rule announced in Carsonneutrality is unconstitutional discrimination.

But Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion Carson states explicitly that “Maine can provide a rigorous secular education in its public schools.” Reaffirms the Court’s view in its 2020 judgment that “the state should not subsidize private education. ” This means that most students who receive state-subsidized education will not be indoctrinated in the faith.

However, one result of Carson The decision is that taxpayers in Maine will be forced to pay for education, which many will find offensive. Like the state explained in its brief description, the families of the plaintiffs in this case want the state to pay at least part of the education in private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ teachers and students. One of these schools is said to require teachers to agree that “the Bible says that“ God recognizes[s] homosexuals and other deviants like perverted “and this”[s]this deviation from biblical standards is grounds for termination. “

Following Tuesday’s decision, these families are almost certain that their wish will come true – Maine will have to significantly revise its education policy to avoid such an outcome – and Maine taxpayers will soon have to fund education in schools with strange or even fanatical worldviews. .

The Maine School Voucher Program, briefly explained

Carson arises from an unusual training voucher program that Maine uses to educate students in its least populated areas. As Roberts explains in Opinion of the majority of the court, “Maine is the most rural state in the Union.” And this makes it impractical for the state to provide traditional public schools in areas where few school-age residents live very far from each other.

Instead of offering these students a traditional public education at a public school, Maine offers many of them a voucher that will pay up to a certain amount of tuition “at the public school or approved private school of the parent’s choice where the student is accepted.”

Prior to the judgment of the Court in Carsonhowever, these vouchers could only be paid for in non-sectarian schools. A school that promotes a “system of faith or beliefs” or “presents the material taught through the prism of that faith” was not eligible for government grants.

Carson abolishes this requirement that state subsidies for private education go only to secular schools. And it does so by significantly reworking the Constitution’s approach to religion more broadly.

Appointed Republicans from the Court view religion neutrality as a form of discrimination.

Two decades ago, there was a serious constitutional debate over whether the government was even allowed to fund religious education. IN Everson v. Education Council (1947), the Court declares that “no tax, in any amount, large or small, may be levied on the support of religious activities or institutions, nor may they be called or taken in any form to teach. or practice religion. ” This seems to preclude government programs that fund religious education in general.

IN Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), however, court 5-4 abandoned Eversonthe strict rule against state funding of religion. ass Zelman just find out countries could offer training vouchers that fund private religious education if they decide to do so. Nothing in Zelman bans the states from maintaining a neutral position on religion – to fund secular education, but not religious education, as Maine had been doing for decades. This simply left the question to the legislators of each state.

The new judgment of the Court of Justice in Carson reverses the rule established in Everson, Considering that it is now a constitutional violation for the government to subsidize secular private education, but not religious education. The Maine program, Roberts writes, “pays for tuition for certain students in private schools – as long as the schools are not religious.” This, he argues, is “discrimination against religion”.

Roberts’ opinion also rejects the distinction between government programs that exclude groups because of their religious “status” and programs that exclude groups because of their religious “use.”

IN Locke v. Davey (2004), the Supreme Court approved a Washington state scholarship program that funds education in both secular and religious colleges, but does not provide scholarships to students who wish to study “devoted theology.” Subsequent lawsuits, including the decision of the lower court in Carsoninterpreted Locke to authorize government programs that do not fund religious education.

More broadly, this interpretation of Locke suggests that states cannot refuse funding to an organization strictly because it has a religious identity. But they could refuse funding if this organization will use state funds to pay for religious activities.

Think of it this way: let’s say the state provides subsidies to help private institutions set up food banks and soup kitchens. If a church requests one of these donations, it cannot be refused because of its Christian identity. But the state may require the church to spend 100 percent of the money it receives on secular activities such as feeding the poor, rather than religious activities such as distributing Bibles to the needy.

Carson effectively eliminates this distinction between organizations that have a religious identity and organizations that want to use public funds for religious purposes. After Carson, a private school can not only receive a state subsidy for education. It can also use this grant to fund explicit religious education.

Traditional public schools are probably not threatened by Carson.

The only silver lining Carson, for anyone interested in the separation of church and state, is that Roberts’s view explicitly preserves the administration’s ability to run traditional public schools that offer a fully secular education. And Carson does not require states to operate a Maine-style voucher system as an alternative to traditional public education.

“The differences between private schools eligible for Maine tuition assistance and public schools in Maine are numerous and important,” Roberts wrote. In particular, private schools that benefit from Maine education vouchers are largely not required to follow the Maine curriculum for public schools. For the most part, private school students do not have to take the same standardized tests offered to Maine public school students. And teachers in private schools do not need to be certified by the state, because teachers in public schools are in Maine.

This implies that the state can provide public education, which comprehensively regulates what is taught, how students are evaluated and who has the right to teach. And the state can offer such public education, excluding all other educational benefits – that is, the state can tell families that if they want a state-funded education, their children must attend a secular public school.

But if a state subsidizes private education that is not exhaustively regulated by the state, then those subsidies must be available to religious schools – even if those schools seek to indoctrinate students into religious beliefs that many residents find disgusting.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.