Americans United Hails Maine Supreme Court Ruling Against Private Religious School Vouchers

Ruling Is Latest In String Of Defeats For Voucher Advocates

Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court today rejected a challenge from parents who demanded voucher subsidies to pay for private religious education, a decision welcomed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The 6-1 ruling marks the latest legal setback for voucher advocates. Florida’s Supreme Court struck down that state’s voucher plan in January.

“Taxpayers should never be forced to pick up the tab for religious education,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This decision is a welcome reminder that churches and church schools should look to donations, not the government, for funding.”

Under a 1981 Maine law, parents who live in towns that do not maintain public high schools may send their children to non-sectarian private schools at taxpayer expense. The law excludes private religious schools from the program.

Several years ago, parents who wanted to send their children to religious high schools sued, seeking vouchers. The Maine high court rejected their case. Not long after that, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Ohio voucher plan in a 1992 case.

The Maine parents returned to court, insisting that the legal standard had changed and they now deserved vouchers.

Maine’s highest court did not agree. The majority noted that while the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states may extend voucher funding to religious schools under certain conditions, it has never said that they are obligated to do so.

“[T]he State may be permitted to pass a statute authorizing some form of tuition payments to religious schools, but…it is not compelled to do so,” observed the court in its ruling in Anderson v. Town of Durham.

Americans United joined with several coalition allies to intervene in the case on behalf of Maine taxpayers who objected to being forced to support religious schools.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.