In 1903, Maine passed a law ensuring all children would have access to education. But not every community had enough money—or students—to justify building their own schools. To this day, when a school district does not provide a public high school to educate the district’s students, Maine helps fund tuition that families choose—unless it is a religious school. First Liberty and Institute for Justice are challenging this law in order to protect the rights of parents to choose the best schools for their children.
In this case—Carson v. Makin—the Institute for Justice (IJ) and First Liberty are challenging this Maine law that bans families from participating in a student-aid program if they choose to send their children to religious schools. This law unjustly discriminates against both religious schools and religious families. We could not allow this law to stand.
A victory in this case could result in greater freedom for families nationwide as they choose the best schools for their children, as well as restored rights for religious schools. And thanks to previous victories for religious educational options at the Supreme Court, we have good reason to hope for a win.
– First Liberty Counsel, Lea Patterson
In recent years, the Supreme Court has issued two decisions favorable to the constitutional rights of students and religious schools that give us hope for a victory in our Maine School Choice case.
The first was Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017). Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri applied in 2012 for a state program that used recycled tires to pad its playgrounds, since the church runs a community pre-school. The state refused to let Trinity Lutheran Church participate in the program because it was religious. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that by excluding Trinity Lutheran, the state of Missouri was discriminating on the basis of religion and violating the Constitution.
The second recent case that gives us hope is Espinoza v. Montana, issued last year. In that case, the Court held that states cannot bar families participating in student-aid programs from choosing religiously affiliated schools for their children. The Court held that discrimination based on the religious “status,” or identity, of a school violates the Constitution.
With Carson v. Makin, the U.S. Supreme Court has a prime opportunity to reaffirm that in America, families should not be excluded from public benefits simply because they choose religious schools for their children.
We’ve been presented with an incredible opportunity at the Supreme Court to set precedent and change the future. Religious schools across the country will be greatly impacted by this case.
With oral argument set for Dec. 8th, time is quickly running out. Now more than ever, we need your generous support so that our legal teams are equipped and ready for this crucial moment.