Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Religious School Tuition Case

NEW YORK -
The United States Supreme Court on Oct. 22, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images/TNS)

On Friday, July 2, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case of Carson v. Makin, which involves the use of state funds to be used at religious educational institutions.

The case began with in a case from Maine, where most of the school districts pay for students to attend public or private schools. The program only allows the funds to be used at “nonsectarian” schools. Two sets of parents, David and Amy Carson and Troy and Angela Nelson, wanted to use funds from the program to send their children to private religious schools that the state has labeled “sectarian.” Thus, the families did not qualify for funding.

These parents went to federal court arguing that being excluded from the program violated their constitutional rights to exercise their religion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled against them, reasoning that the exclusion of religious schools was because the money was used for religious instruction, and not whether the school was religious.

In February, the plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, and on Friday the justices agreed that it should be argued sometime next fall.

In March, Agudath Israel of America joined an “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) brief, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing that the law violates the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution under several recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions because it prohibits students from accessing an otherwise available student aid program solely because of the religious nature of their school.

Agudath Israel released a statement on Friday, July 2, stating they are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Carson v. Makin, involving the religious liberty of students.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president, stated, “Excluding religious school students from a state aid program that benefits other private school students violates their religious liberty. We are very pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case, and hopefully put an end to that unconstitutional and discriminatory practice.”