The state of Maine has moved to allow religious schools to apply for tuition reimbursement
through the state’s tuition funding program for areas that have no public high schools. The move
comes after the United States Supreme Court determined that Maine cannot deny assistance to
religious schools solely because of their faith convictions.

The Supreme Court found that Maine’s program violated the Free Exercise Clause in the First
Amendment because it prohibits the schools from receiving an otherwise available benefit solely
because of the schools’ religious nature. (Roll Call)

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case last June after the state of Maine chose to deny religious
schools access to a state tuition assistance program because they included direct religious
instruction in the curriculum. The court found Maine’s actions to be discriminatory.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision was the latest in a line of rulings by the court that have
favored religion-based discrimination claims. (SNR News)

The dissenting voices, which included Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor, said that states
should not be compelled to spend taxpayer dollars to support religious teachings. They opined
that states ought to remain neutral with respect to the practice of religion.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, in a dissent joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan,
wrote that the Maine law embodies “the constitutional need to avoid spending public money to
support what is essentially the teaching and practice of religion.” (Roll Call)

Religious schools in Maine celebrated the High Court’s decision, yet they remain aware of the
ongoing nature of the debate over religious freedom.

Despite the victory, religious schools are taking a cautious approach after Maine Attorney
General Aaron Frey said all schools accepting public funds must abide by the Maine Human
Rights Act. (SRN News)

The state law stipulates that students have the right to freedom from discrimination because of
factors such as sex, sexual identity, or gender identity. Critics of the Supreme Court’s decision
claim that it will lead to state-funded discrimination based on said factors. Its defenders express
fear that laws such as the Maine Human Rights Act could force religious schools to violate their
faith-based beliefs.

Thus far, only one religious school has applied for tuition assistance. Jesuit college preparatory
school, Cheverus High School’s application was recently approved.

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