Appeals Court Rules Students at Christian Schools Can’t be Banned from Vermont’s Dual Enrollment Program

In a August 28, 2018 photo, Bangor Christian Schools sophomore Olivia Carson, 15, of Glenburn was dropped off on the first day of school by her mother, Amy Carson in Bangor. The Carsons are one of three Maine families that are challenging the prohibition on using public money to pay tuition at religious schools after a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. States can’t cut religious schools out of programs that send public money to private education, a divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Two states with existing private education programs, Maine and Vermont, could see quick efforts to force them to allow religious schools to participate. (Gabor Degre/The Bangor Daily News via AP)

Students who attend private faith-based schools in Vermont are now allowed to take dual enrollment college classes, a court has ruled after the state banned students at non-secular schools from taking advantage of the program.

In an order released last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted the plaintiffs an emergency injunction, allowing students at faith-based private schools to enroll in college courses, just as students at secular public and private schools are allowed to do.

Last year, a group of plaintiffs, including students at faith-based schools and their parents, filed a lawsuit against Vermont which had banned them from accessing the dual enrollment fund.

The brief argued that the plaintiffs, which included the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, “have a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claims.”

Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases and represented the diocese and students, celebrated the order.

“No state can discriminate against students based on which kind of school they attend,” stated ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “It makes no sense for the state to say it will pay for a student from a public or secular private school to take a college course at a public university, for example, but then say that a student from a faith-based private school cannot receive the same funding to attend that exact public university class.”

To justify the emergency order, the appeals court cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which was released in late June.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski