Government-Supported Religion

Taxpayers Shouldn’t Be Forced To Fund Religious Education

  Rob Boston

The U.S. Supreme Court today is hearing oral arguments in an important case that could determine if taxpayers can be forced to support religious education.

Carson v. Makin concerns a Maine law that allows some students who live in rural areas without public high schools to attend private, non-sectarian schools at state expense. A group of parents, backed by organizations that oppose church-state separation and public education, are suing to force the state to allow religious schools into the program.

Maine doesn’t want to fund religious schools that teach theology and that discriminate – and it shouldn’t have to. We’re watching the outcome of this case closely because an adverse ruling could dramatically lower the church-state wall.

To hear how the arguments went and a discussion on next steps, join us at 7:30 p.m. ET tomorrow for a virtual town hall. AU President and CEO Rachel Laser and Legal Director Richard Katskee will be joined by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Holly Hollman, general counsel and associate executive director at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, for a panel discussion about the case. RSVP here for a Zoom link to the event.

Meanwhile, Americans United has some resources you can use to educate yourself about the case:

  • This Washington Post column by AU’s Laser looks at how a decision against Maine could compel taxpayers to subsidize schools that discriminate.
  • This Church & State article provides background on the case and explains what’s at stake.
  • This friend-of-the-court brief, written by Americans United and joined by 23 religious and civil rights organizations, explains that Maine’s policy of not providing government funding for private religious instruction is in line with long-standing Supreme Court precedent that states can protect their taxpayers’ religious freedom by refraining from funding distinctly religious activities – including religious instruction.

Americans United was founded nearly 75 years ago in part to ensure that no American could be forced to pay for the religion, or the religious education, of another. We believe public funds should support only secular education.

If you feel the same way, please join us as we work to support, uphold and defend church-state separation and public education – twin pillars of democracy.

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