Court Upholds Maine Law Banning Religious Schools from Participating in State’s High School Tuition Program

A federal appeals court has ruled against Maine parents challenging a state law that excludes religious schools from the state’s high school tuition program despite a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down similar restrictions in Montana.

The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling against three families who filed a lawsuit against the commissioner of the Maine Department of Education over a rule that bans the use of tax dollars to pay for students’ tuition to attend religious schools.

The families are represented by the Institute for Justice and plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a statement released by the nonprofit legal group.

According to the institute, Maine is home to the country’s second-oldest school choice program.

Since 1873, the state’s “tuitioning” system has paid for children in towns that are too small to maintain public schools to attend the private or public schools of their choosing. Until 1980, families were allowed to send their children to religious private schools as part of the program.

“Today’s decision allows the state of Maine to continue discriminating against families and students seeking to attend religious schools and we will immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” IJ Senior Attorney Timothy D. Keller said in a statement.

Keller cited the Supreme Court’s decision in June in the case of Espinoza v. Montana. The nation’s high court ruled 5-4 that religious schools can qualify for a state tax credit program even though the state constitution banned public aid from going to religious institutions.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith

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