'Religious instruction' a bridge too far for tuition assistance

Friday, February 19, 2021
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

Teacher teaching BibleSome parents in Maine are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case where the state is refusing to provide student aid because they are sending their daughter to a religious school that provides religious instruction.

Maine provides tuition assistance for high school students families that live in areas without a public secondary school. Two families in that situation are suing because they have been denied assistance on the grounds the schools must be "nonsectarian."

Institute for Justice attorney Michael Bindas explains that the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them.

"Basically, the court said 'We know Maine can't discriminate because schools are religious, but we think it's okay for Maine to discriminate if schools do religious things' – and that's just an absurd distinction," the attorney says.

Bindas argues that by singling out religion – and only religion – for exclusion from the tuition assistance program, the state is violating the U.S. Constitution.

Bindas

"Parents deserve the right to choose the school that is best for their children, whether it's a school that focuses on STEM instruction, offers language immersion, or provides robust instruction in the arts," he states in a press release. "Maine correctly allows parents to choose such schools – or virtually any other school they think will best serve their kids. But the state flatly bans parents from choosing schools that offer religious instruction. That is unconstitutional."

The attorney says the lower courts have been split on whether a state can exclude schools from student-aid programs if they provide religious instruction.

"Only the U. S. Supreme Court can resolve that split among the lower courts," he tells One News Now. "And so we're hopeful, given this latest opportunity to take on this issue and resolve it once and for all, that the court will do so."

Based on prior decisions, Bindas remains confident the high court will decide in their favor if it takes the case.

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