U.S. Supreme Court Adopts Position Argued By The Buckeye Institute

Jun 21, 2022

Columbus, OH – On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Carson v. Makin that the state of Maine cannot deny students and their families financial aid that is available to all other students just because a family chooses to use their aid to send their children to a religious or “sectarian” school.

“Once again, the high court has clearly found that the government cannot discriminate against religion in administering benefit programs,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute. “As The Buckeye Institute argued in its amicus brief, Maine’s discrimination against religious schools and parents violated the First Amendment, and today’s decision is another significant victory for the rights of families and students.”

Chief Justice John Robert wrote for the majority, a “State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

“Today’s decision makes clear that tuition assistance programs, like the one in Maine, can be used by families to attend religious schools,” said Larry Obhof, a partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP and counsel of record for The Buckeye Institute in this case. “The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment prevents generally-available government programs from excluding families or schools because of their faith.”

Dave and Amy Carson—who are represented by Institute for Justice and First Liberty Institute—live in a “tuitioning town,” where the state of Maine provides tuition assistance to students in areas that do not maintain a public school. The tuition assistance program can be used to attend a school of the family’s choice—public or private, in-state or out-of-state. However, the state of Maine would not allow the Carsons to use the tuition assistance to send their daughter to Bangor Christian Schools, which is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, because the school is “sectarian.” The Buckeye Institute filed an amicus brief supporting the Carsons.

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