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Supreme Court rules that Maine must provide tuition aid to religious schools

June 23, 2022
Parents who challenged the state's program argued that the exclusion of religious schools violated their religious rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Maine cannot exclude religious schools from a program that offers tuition aid for private education. 

ABC News reports that parents who challenged the program argued that the exclusion of religious schools violates their religious rights.

Reversing an appeals court ruling, the Supreme Court decided that the Maine program violates the Constitution's protections for religious freedoms.

“Maine’s ‘nonsectarian' requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. "Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise."

In largely rural Maine, the state allows families who live in towns that don’t have public schools to receive public tuition money to send their children to the public or private school of their choosing. The program has excluded religious schools.

Students who live in a district with public schools or in a district that contracts with another public system are ineligible for the tuition program.

Parents sued to be allowed to use state aid to send their children to Christian schools in Bangor and Waterville. 

The Supreme Court decision stated that religious schools must be part of the mix when states allocate public money to private school choice programs.

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