The State of Maine would very much wish to continue to provide funding to secular private schools that serve districts that don’t have public schools. They would also very much wish to continue to not allow parents to choose faith based schools as an option, and thus allow those schools to receive funding as well.
Perhaps 5 years ago, and certainly past that, the whole myth of ‘secular’ being somehow the neutral, non-partisan approach to schooling our schools, but now, especially as we see the rapid deployment of the fruit of secularism, moral supremacist authoritarianism that violates that sacredness and sovereignty of the individual, we see the religious in the secular, the ideological that goes beyond our shared, limited ideology, a Constitutional Bill of Rights frame of understanding.
If the State of Main wishes to continue to fund its secular private schools, it will also have to fund the faith-based one, or shut the whole program down, or simply give the money to the families and let them decide for themselves, but such freedom of families to raise children as they choose would fundamentally undermine the authoritarian centralized structures the State of Maine would most assuredly wish to perpetuate.
If a state pays for a student’s secular education, must it also pay for students’ religious education? That’s the question presented in Carson v. Makin, a case currently being argued at the Supreme Court.
Maine, with a large area and small student population, pays for students to attend private, secular schools in districts that don’t have a public high school. Now, some religious schools are demanding taxpayer dollars for their students regardless of the provision in Maine’s constitution that prohibits public funding for religious education.
Both sides recognize the fundamental legal principle that government must be “neutral” (Thomas Jefferson used the term “impartial”) vis-à-vis different religions or between religion and no religion. The question is how to apply that principle.
Maine argues that it is willing to pay for any schools offering the same education available in public schools, a secular education with a proscribed curriculum. The state is “neutral” in who it pays for such a secular education, but it is not required to expand purchases with tax dollars to an essentially different product, a religious education.
After all, if any “education” qualifies, a student could argue that the state should pay for her sports car, something that provides an education of sorts. Or that he should be paid to learn exotic dancing or massage. If a state, in the name of neutrality, must expand its purchases beyond a specified secular education to include religious education, does that mean it must provide other forms of “education”? And will the court’s conservatives, who demand deference to states when convenient, ignore Maine’s interest in its constitutional requirement prohibiting funding of religion?
But there is a second, arguably even more important issue behind this case: If a law is found to be neutral, does that insulate it from challenge under the First Amendment?
Maine laws, for example, prohibit schools that receive public…