U.S. Supreme Court: Government Can’t Discriminate Against Students At Religious Schools

The following is a press release from Alliance Defending Freedom.

Tuesday, Jun 21, 2022

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in Carson v. Makin that the state of Maine cannot exclude students who attend religious schools from a government program in which they are otherwise qualified. Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and Jones Day had argued for that result in a friend-of-the-court brief they filed on behalf of the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty.

Maine had prohibited families from using funds from a state tuition program—designed for students who don’t have access to a local public school—at private religious schools that incorporated a curricular faith perspective.

“When the government offers parents school choice, it can’t take away choices that are deemed ‘too religious’ or withhold funds from those who choose religious schools when the state offers those funds to everybody else,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “Today’s decision from the Supreme Court affirms our country’s abiding principle of religious liberty and, importantly, allows Maine parents the freedom to send their children to schools that align with their beliefs.”

The Supreme Court’s decision built upon its previous rulings in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue and Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, a case in which ADF attorneys successfully argued before the high court that a state may not discriminate against a religious school in awarding grants to improve playground safety.

“Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause,” the high court concluded, emphasizing that this does not mean that a state “must” fund religious education. “But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” And this is true no matter whether the state disqualifies a school because of its religious status or because the school integrates religion into its curriculum. “Any attempt to give effect to such a distinction by scrutinizing whether and how a religious school pursues its educational mission would also raise serious concerns about state entanglement with religion and denominational favoritism.”

ADF attorneys are currently litigating similar cases involving Vermont officials discriminating against religious schools in E.W. v. FrenchA.M. v. French, and A.H. v. French. Jones Day attorneys Yaakov M. Roth, Anthony J. Dick, and Meredith Holland Kessler served as co-counsel for the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Proposed Constitutional Amendment Would Remove Legislative Oversight From Arkansas’ Public Education

A proposed constitutional amendment would make it more difficult for the Arkansas Legislature and the governor to oversee public education or hold educators accountable.

Arkansans For World Class Education is working to place the “Public Schools Amendment of 2022” on the ballot this November.

Among other things, the proposed amendment would remove the provision in the Arkansas Constitution that gives the state’s General Assembly the ability to make laws concerning the State Board of Education.

Currently, the Arkansas Constitution says,

The supervision of public schools, and the execution of the laws regulating the same, shall be vested in and confided to, such officers as may be provided for by the General Assembly.

Under this provision, the General Assembly gets to establish offices that oversee public education — such as a Department of Education, Secretary of Education, and State Board of Education. The governor appoints people to fill those positions.

The Public Schools Amendment of 2022 would strike this provision from the constitution, and replace it with new language that puts an unelected board in charge of public education in Arkansas. The amendment says that anyone who has served on the State Board of Education in the past 10 years would be ineligible to serve on this new board, and that the governor and the Arkansas Legislature would not have the power to review or approve new rules or policies the board makes concerning public education in Arkansas.

If the legislature and the governor cannot govern the State Board of Education and the rules that it writes, then just how much oversight would public education have in Arkansas under this amendment? The answer, it seems, is very little.

Read The Proposed Amendment Here.

Arkansas Home Schooler Earns Perfect Score on ACT

The Education Alliance is proud to announce that eleventh grade home schooler Alison Giggleman of Roland recently scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.

The ACT is one of the most widely-recognized standardized tests for assessing college readiness. Scoring a perfect 36 on the ACT puts Alison in the top 99th percentile of students who took the test and unlocks incredible opportunities for her when it comes to enrolling in college and qualifying for academic scholarships.

Home schoolers in Arkansas have a solid reputation for academic achievement. They routinely outperform other students on standardized tests, and many have gone on to graduate from prestigious colleges and universities.

I hope you will join us in congratulating Alison and her parents, Charles and Mika, for her accomplishment.

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash