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Supreme Court strikes down Maine policy excluding religious schools from tuition assistance

The exclusion of religious schools was found to violate the First Amendment.

Published: June 21, 2022 10:51am

Updated: June 21, 2022 12:50pm

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that refusing tuition assistance to students attending religious schools when it is offered to secular private schools is unconstitutional. 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in the 6-3 ruling – consistent with the conservative-liberal composition of the high court.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor cast the dissenting votes.

In the case, Carson v. Makin, Maine’s department of education had instituted a policy that would pay tuition to some students who attend private schools if their district did not offer a public school.

Among the requirements, the department demanded that the school must be “nonsectarian in accordance with the First Amendment.” The change was only instituted in 1981 following an advisory opinion by the state attorney general.

However, the court determined that the requirement in fact “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 in his opinion. 

The court still has 13 decisions to issue before the end of the term. More decisions will be released on Thursday. 

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