The U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to review a case involving parents in Maryland who sought to use taxpayer money to fund their child’s education at a private, religious school. The high court’s refusal to hear M.L. v. Smith leaves in place a lower-court opinion that protects church-state separation.
Akiva and Shani Leiman – the parents of a child with special needs who is known in court documents as M.L. – were trying to compel Montgomery County Public Schools to cover the cost of M.L.’s tuition at a Jewish school. The Leimans conceded that the public school system could provide an appropriate education for children with disabilities like M.L.’s, but they also wanted M.L. to receive the religious and cultural lessons they believe he needs in order to live in their Orthodox Jewish community.
In August, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county school system was not required to provide or fund religious instruction. The school district “provided M.L. with equal access to an education, on the same basis as it provides to all other students with disabilities,” wrote Judge G. Steven Agee in an opinion for the court.
Americans United had filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 4th Circuit that noted that all special-needs children have the right to a quality public education, but no child has the right to taxpayer-funded religious instruction.