September 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new case that could result in more taxpayer funding flowing to private religious schools.

The case, Carson v. Makin, centers on a law in Maine that allows parents who live in areas not served by public high schools to send their children to private schools at state expense. The Maine law offers tuition reimbursement only to private schools that don’t use the money for religious instruction and don’t unlawfully discriminate.

A group of Maine parents wants to use funding from this voucher-like program to pay for religious education of their children at sectarian schools that have discriminatory policies.

Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, issued a statement urging the court to allow Maine to refuse funding to religious schools that discriminate.

“One of America’s most basic principles is that we can all freely choose our religion, or no religion at all,” Laser said. “The separation of church and state is what protects this freedom for all of us. One of the core reasons our country’s founders insisted on church-state separation was to ensure taxpayers are not forced to pay for the private religious education of others.”

Added Laser, “The Supreme Court chipped away at this protection last year when it required states to include religious schools in private school voucher programs. If this court is to maintain any semblance of adhering to the Constitution and the intent of its framers, it should not cross this final line of requiring taxpayers to pay for religious instruction.”

The case will be heard during the high court’s 2021-22 term, which begins next month. Americans United has filed two amicus briefs in the Carson case in lower courts.