(CNS News) -- In response to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling that Maine’s tuition assistance program cannot exclude schools on the basis of religious affiliation, Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow at The Catholic Association, said, “Today’s decision is a momentous victory for religious freedom and parents’ right to educate their children as they see fit.”
The Supreme Court’s June 21 ruling (6-3) in Carson v. Makin said that Maine, in providing tuition assistance to children in public and private schools, could not deny the same financial assistance to children in parochial schools. Maine’s attempt to exclude religious schools was found to violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The ruling drew praise from proponents of both religious liberty and school choice.
Ashley McGuire, also a senior fellow at The Catholic Association, described the Maine rule struck down by the Court as an example of “arcane anti-Catholic laws” that “especially hurt low-income children who suffer the most in failed schools.”
According to McGuire, the 6-3 ruling “helps to end anti-religious discrimination and expands sorely-needed school choice for low-income families.”
TCA’s Ferguson further said that the decision “makes clear that religious schools can participate in publicly available programs free from government discrimination, and paves the way for parents to be able to choose the best school for their children.”
Andrew Brennan, the director of Faith Communications at the RNC, described the ruling as “the latest in a string of decisions in recent years where Republican-appointed justices have upheld important religious freedom protections.”
“No freedom is more important for human flourishing than religious liberty, and today the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the kind of religious freedom protections that Americans deserve,” said Brennan.
Among the critics of Tuesday’s decision, many have echoed the point made by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the opening line of her dissent, where she claims “this court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the framers fought to build.”
The president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Rachel Laser, argued that by “requiring Maine to tax citizens to fund religious schools,” the court is violating “religious freedom, which has always prevented the state from using its taxing power to force citizens to fund religious worship or education.”
The “Establishment” and “Free Exercise” Clauses of the First Amendment state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Those in the dissent said the court’s ruling does away with the Establishment Clause.
In Justice Stephen Breyer’s conclusion, he wrote, “Maine wishes to provide children within the State with a secular, public education. This wish embodies, in significant part, the constitutional need to avoid spending public money to support what is essentially the teaching and practice of religion.”
In contrast, those in the majority opinion defended their ruling as a protection of the Free Exercise Clause, writing, “Maine’s program cannot survive strict scrutiny. A neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause.”