A number of Maine families are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court over a state law forbidding students who attend religious schools to receive public tuition funds.
Three families in Maine are seeking to challenge the state's tuition program contending that the exclusion of students attending religious schools from federal funding is "unconstitutional," Christian Headlines reported.
Under the Maine's Town Tuitioning Program, students in towns without their own high schools are provided with state tuition payments to be used at a nearby private or public schools, except religious schools, the Maine Public Radio says.
Tulsa World says that lawsuits have been filed over the years but the courts have always voted in favor of the state insisting that federal funding on religious education violates the separation of church and state.
The law which had been in effect since 1873 is upheld by the U.S. Circuit of Appeals.
Further to Christian Headlines report, lawyers of the Institute for Justice (IJ) and First Liberty Institute filed the lawsuit representing the three families.
The regulation is described as "unconstitutional" by IJ Senior Attorney Michael Bindas.
"By singling out religion-and only religion-for exclusion from its tuition assistance program, Maine violates the U.S. Constitution. Parents deserve the right to choose the school that is best for their children, whether it's a school that focuses on STEM instruction, offers language immersion, or provides robust instruction in the arts," he said.
"Maine correctly allows parents to choose such schools-or virtually any other school they think will best serve their kids. But the state flatly bans parents from choosing schools that offer religious instruction. That is unconstitutional," Bindas further stated.
The family of Amy and Dave Carson wanted to have their daughter attend Bangor Christian School, a private school that supports their Christian belief. But in accordance with the state's tuition program, their daughter is not eligible for tuition assistance. Maine's education department contends that while the school they have chosen is accredited, it is "sectarian" which instills "a Biblical worldview" to its students and holds a curriculum that provides religious instruction.
Angela and Troy Nelson, on the other hand, want to send their children to Temple Academy which is a tuition-approved secular educational institution but a Christian school. Thus, the Nelson children are also not entitled to receive the state's tuition payments since the school provides a faith-based instruction.
Atty. Lea Patterson of First Liberty Institute said that the state ""has rejected parental choice in education and allowed religious discrimination to persist" for 40 years.
"The Supreme Court should act now so yet another generation of schoolchildren is not deprived of desperately needed educational opportunity and the right to freely exercise their religion," Patterson argued.
According to Maine Public Radio, the courts rejected the appeals for the case last year but Bindas said it was given a new hope following a Supreme Court ruling in 2020 that allows Montana's tax credit program to be used for religious schools.