A view of the U.S. Supreme Court Building on June 20, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Maine can't exclude religious schools from a program that offers tuition aid for private education, a decision that could ease religious organizations’ access to taxpayer money.The 6-3 outcome could fuel a renewed push for school choice programs in some of the 18 states that have so far not directed taxpayer money to private, religious education.
The most immediate effect of the court’s ruling beyond Maine probably will be felt next door in Vermont, which has a similar programChief Justice John Roberts wrote for a conservative majority that the program violates the Constitution's protections for religious freedoms."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 wrote.The court's three liberal justices dissented. "This Court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote.Justice Stephen Breyer noted in a separate dissent that Maine "wishes to provide children within the State with a secular, public education.