June 22, 2022


Carson v. Makin: Another Win for Education Freedom (Colleen Hroncich and Solomon Chen, 6/22/22, Cato)

"If our neighbors have the freedom to choose a private school and receive tuition from our town, why are we denied this same benefit just because we desire a religious education for our daughter?" This simple question, asked by Maine parents Alan and Judy Gillis, is at the heart of today's Supreme Court ruling in Carson v. Makin.

Fortunately for the Gillis family, and families throughout Maine, a majority of the Court agreed. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that "Maine's 'nonsectarian' requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."

Carson v. Makin is centered on Maine's tuition assistance program, one of the oldest school choice programs in the nation. Created in 1873, the program funds students from a town without a public school to attend a school of their parents' choice--whether private or public, in‐​state, or out‐​of‐​state. For more than a century, parents could direct these funds towards religious schools. In 1980, Maine Attorney General Richard S. Cohen released an opinion that said funding a child to attend a school with a "pervasively religious atmosphere" would be unconstitutional. In response, the legislature changed the law to prohibit families from using the tuition assistance at religious schools.

In today's ruling, as it did previously in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court flatly rejected the respondent's claims that allowing religious schools to receive the tuition funds violates the first amendment. Written by Chief Justice Roberts, today's opinion states, "As noted, a neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause." 

Neutrality/universality simply isn't that hard a concept to grasp. 

Posted by at June 22, 2022 12:00 AM