June 21, 2022, Washington, D.C. – Today the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Carson v. Makin, with the Court ruling 6–3 that Maine’s taxpayers must subsidize private religious education. The justices concluded that Maine’s program that pays for rural students to attend high schools in other counties must also allow parents to select a private religious high school. Some of the schools that will receive state funding as a result of this ruling are schools that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people or that have no resources to support students with unique learning needs.
In dissents, the liberal justices highlight how damaging this ruling is for religious freedom in the United States. The “potential for religious strife is still with us,” wrote Justice Breyer. With so many people of different religious faiths living together, it’s important to ensure “state neutrality with respect to religion.”
Justice Sotomayor offered a more direct rebuke, saying, “This Court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build.” Calling the majority’s decision “especially perverse,” she noted that the majority essentially blames Maine for its rural populations and punishes the state for not operating high schools where it is not practical. The state is left to pay the price for religious instruction or not help its rural citizens at all.
She concludes: “Today, the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation. If a State cannot offer subsidies to its citizens without being required to fund religious exercise, any State that values its historic antiestablishment interests more than this Court does will have to curtail the support it offers to its citizens. With growing concern for where this Court will lead us next, I respectfully dissent.”
Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks issued the following statement:
“This decision is, as Justice Sotomayor said, a perversion of the First Amendment’s promise of religious freedom. Conservatives have been fighting to use taxpayer money to fund private schools that discriminate since Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954. Because of those efforts, voucher programs in other states send thousands of dollars to schools where not all students are welcome, making discrimination public policy while underfunding public institutions. As it stands, Maine’s public schools already only receive 55% of the funding they need, so this decision makes matters exponentially worse. In essence, this ruling holds that while our public schools must be integrated, parents can choose to segregate their students and the state must pay for it.”