On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Maine law that excluded religious schools from a tuition voucher program that subsidizes private secular schools. The 6-3 ruling in Carson v. Makin follows the Court’s recent decision in Espinosa v. Montana Department of Revenue and states that the government may not discriminate against institutions on the basis of religion.
Maine currently subsidizes the cost of private schools for students who live in school districts that do not contain a public high school. Children who live in these districts are eligible to receive a tuition voucher to attend a nearby public or private school. However, religious schools that otherwise meet all applicable state requirements are specifically excluded from the program.
Chief Justice John Roberts reiterated the Court’s holding in Espinosa, stating that a state may not “withhold otherwise available public benefits from religious organizations” simply because they are religious. Such action is a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion. The ruling is seen as another blow to state “Blaine Amendments,” which prohibit direct government aid from going to religious schools.