The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a Maine education policy that made K-12 schools with religious instruction ineligible for taxpayer-backed tuition aid, continuing the conservative majority court’s general trend of ruling for religious interests.
The 6-3 decision broke along ideological lines, with the court’s six conservatives ruling that the state’s so-called sectarian exclusion violated constitutional religious protections. The court’s liberals dissented, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor accusing the conservatives of further eroding church-state separation.
Maine law gives school-age children the right to free public education. But because many rural districts lack a public high school, a workaround was devised that allows students to attend nearby qualifying private schools with public assistance.
Under Maine law, however, schools that offer religious instruction had been ineligible. This exclusion prompted a challenge by Maine parents, who argued that barring families’ preferred schools from the tuition aid program based on religion violates constitutional religious rights under the First Amendment.