Maine taxpayers will now be forced to support private schools that explicitly teach religion.
addressed in Carson v. Makin was a state law that required local communities to educate children in extremely rural communities that cannot support their own public high schools. It requires these communities to address the deficit in two ways: by contracting with the nearest public schools, or by paying private schools to educate children, as long as the institution is a “non-sectarian school in accordance with the First United States Amendment”. Constitution.”
The law was challenged by two families who wanted to use public school fees to send their children to religious schools. They argued that the law violated their right to practice their religion freely. Both schools in question were Christian – one seeks to ‘instill in every student a Christian worldview and philosophy of life’, the other integrates ‘biblical principles with their teaching in every subject’.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the families in a 6-3 ruling. “A state need not subsidize private education,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools just because they are religious.”
The court had ruled a similar case from Montana in 2020. The court has made a huge leap between this case and this one. While the courts have ruled that states may subsidize religious education if they wish, it now holds that they cannot exclude them.
In short, the United States Supreme Court, the most powerful arbitrator of the US Constitution, is now forcing states to subsidize religious education. Which, of course, is strange considering what the First Amendment of that same document says: “Congress will not legislate regarding the establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise of it.”
Forcing a state government to subsidize religious institutions seems very close to ‘establishing religion’.
Now, maybe someone could argue that as long as this applies to any religion, it doesn’t amount to the state sponsoring a religion. But there are three flaws in this reasoning. First, the factual reality — as is the case with the two institutions at issue in the Carson case — is that this would be used to fund Christian schools in almost every circumstance where it would apply. Indeed, it is worth imagining what could happen if a Muslim or Hindu school received money under the exact same ruling. It is almost needless to say that proponents of this ruling would try to find ways to exclude these schools.
The second major flaw is that it uses the power of the state to levy taxes to force people who would not otherwise support religious education to do just that. Indeed, there will be many people in Maine who will disagree with the teachings of private religious schools that are now going to pay for them.
The third flaw is that it ignores the ways in which religious schools often operate within the framework of religious institutions. Should taxpayers now fund a church that operates a school?
We can also examine this from the perspective of the majority’s own reasoning: that excluding religious schools would be discrimination based on religion. Does preventing taxpayers’ money from being spent on religious education actually prevent one from getting religious education? No. Does it keep them from practicing their faith? No. Does it prevent a religious person from getting his (non-religious) education paid for by the state? No.
Rather, it is the ruling itself that violates religious freedom. By forcing taxpayers to pay for religious education, the Court will infringe on the religious freedoms of those taxpayers who are now obliged to fund religious education with which they may disagree — in effect, they will be forced to pay alms to religious institutions with which they disagree.
Tragically, this is just one of a series of rulings expected from this Court that, in the name of “religious freedom,” will do more to undermine than protect that freedom.
Originally published June 22 in The Incision. For more information, visit abdulelsayed.substack.com.
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