Big Win in Supreme Court for Religious Schools

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FILE - Visitors walk outside the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that religious schools can’t be excluded from a Maine program that offers tuition aid for private education, a decision that could ease religious organizations’ access to taxpayer money.

The most immediate effect of the court’s 6-3 decision beyond Maine will be next door in Vermont, which has a similar program.

But the outcome also could fuel a renewed push for school choice programs in some of the 18 states that have so far not directed taxpayer money to private, religious education.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a conservative majority that the 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. 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,” Roberts wrote.

The court’s three liberal justices dissented. “This Court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote.


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