The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today 6-3 that Maine could not bar religious schools from participating in a state tuition program.

The case, Carson v. Makin, No. 20-1088, arose from an unusual program in Maine, which requires rural communities without public secondary schools to arrange for their young residents’ educations in one of two ways. They can sign contracts with nearby public schools, or they can pay tuition at a private school chosen by parents so long as it is, in the words of a state law, “a nonsectarian school in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Two families in Maine that send or want to send their children to religious schools challenged the law, saying it violated their right to freely exercise their faith.


The schools that will receive the money provide Christian religious instruction and admit that they discriminate against homosexuals, individuals who are transgender and non-Christians.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, in a group of Republican officials that argued for today’s decision, cheered the ruling, which overturned two lower court decisions. She said it protects religious liberty. Not for all of course.

Arkansas’s school voucher aid is already going to religious schools, regardless of the content of their instruction or how they might view non-Christians or others. (They are free from state education standards as well.) It’s always struck me that sending public money to private schools with discriminatory religious practices was somewhat at variance with the Arkansas Constitution. It says:

All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;  no man can, of right, be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship;  or to maintain any ministry against his consent.  No human authority can, in any case or manner whatsoever, control or interfere with the right of conscience;  and no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship, above any other.