In a major victory for school choice and parents’ rights, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot bar parents from using state funds to send their children to a religious school in David Carson et al. v. A. Pender Makin.
Maine offers a tuition-assistance program that provides funds for parents to send their children to private secondary schools in areas where public ones do not exist. The state law, however, does not allow these funds to be used for “sectarian” schools.
Two families with children in religious schools sued the state, claiming that the state has engaged in religious discrimination prohibited by the First Amendment. Two lower federal courts disagreed with the parents before the Supreme Court heard the case.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “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.”
“Maine’s ‘nonsectarian’ requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Regardless of how the benefit and restriction are described, the program operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise,” Roberts continued.
The high court’s decision reverses the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
This is excellent news for school choice and religious liberty throughout the country. In a statement after the ruling was handed down, Senior Attorney Michael Bindas (who represented the parents in the case) said: “Today’s decision makes clear, once and for all, that the government may not bar parents from selecting religious schools within educational choice programs, whether because of their religious affiliation or the religious instruction they provide.”
“Parents have a constitutional right to choose such schools for their children, and the Court today held that a state cannot deny them that choice in programs that allow for other private options.”
Parents should not be prevented from directing their children’s education, and the government should not discriminate against schools that provide religious instruction or are religious in nature. Although California does not currently offer tuition assistance programs to parents as in Maine, the Carson v. Makin decision sends a message to state governments that treating schools differently because of their religious affiliation could result in lawsuits that may ultimately be decided at the federal level.
Public schools, especially in California, continue to be corrupted by leftist propaganda, meaning protecting parents’ rights is more important than ever.
This ruling is a step in the right direction for school choice and parents’ rights in education, but there is still more work to be done, especially since California still lacks any official school choice program. We need universal choice throughout the state. Incomes and zip codes should not determine who gets to take advantage of educational options.
Parents alone are responsible for the education of their children. The more educational options parents have, the better. Parents know what is best for their children.