The Supreme Court of the United States decided upon one of the most contentious cases of the season: Carson v Makin, in which the constitutionality of a law in Maine that excluded religious schools from a voucher program for areas without public schools was discussed.
The ruling was a 6-3 against the law in its usual Conservative-Liberal divide with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion.
According to the Court, Maine’s program violated religious liberty as protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which protects against “indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion, not just outright prohibitions.” Chief Justice Roberts argued that the program “specifically carved out private religious schools from those eligible to receive such funds,” thus in order for such a law to be considered constitutional, a state must argue that it is pursuing narrowly “tailored” “interests of the highest order,” a standard that Maine failed to meet.
The Court had already pretty much struck down state-level “Blaine Amendments” in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Blaine Amendments are constitutional clauses present in some state constitutions that prohibit public funding for religious schools and were considered unconstitutional by the Court for the same reason as Carson v Makin.
While the specific result of the decision is small because only around 4,000 students benefit from Maine’s voucher program, the consequences of the decision are larger because it likely means that all states that establish school choice programs cannot exclude religious schools from them.
A huge victory for religious freedom in post-Christian America.