Nov 27, 2006

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today applauded the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal of a case from Maine that sought to force local education officials to provide tax support for private religious schools.

Without comment, the high court today declined to hear the case Anderson v. Durham School Department.

“This is yet another sign that the Supreme Court is not interested in forcing any state or jurisdiction to adopt voucher programs,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It is time for the groups that have pursued this misguided legal strategy to give up.”

Maine law allows some parents living in rural areas that lack public high schools to send their children to private, non-sectarian institutions at state expense. Citing church-state separation concerns, Maine lawmakers have excluded private religious schools from the plan.

A handful of Maine parents, backed by the pro-voucher group the Institute for Justice, challenged the law, asserting that it discriminated against religion.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, ruling in April that state officials had a valid interest in protecting the separation of church and state. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case today ends the controversy.

Lynn noted that although the high court upheld voucher plans in 2002, the justices have shown little sympathy for arguments that failure to provide tax subsidies for private sectarian education is a form of religious discrimination.

“Some Maine parents wanted to pass their parochial school tuition bills to the taxpayers,” Lynn observed. “The courts are making it clear there is no ‘right’ to force someone else to pay for your religion.”

Americans United and allied groups intervened in the case in the Maine courts, representing taxpayers in the state who oppose government funding of religion.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.