“This Court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build.” Associate Justice Sotomayor, dissent in Carson v. Makin, U.S. Supreme Court, June 21, 2022.
No, Justice Sotomayor, the current court, as well as the decision handed down this week do no such thing. Rather, this decision tells governments everywhere they can no longer discriminate against religion and religious believers, hiding behind and misrepresenting the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Here’s the short story –
Due to the very rural nature of the state of Maine, apparently not all counties in the state provide education/schools for children otherwise required to attend school under state law. Rather, Maine’s law provides for the payment of school tuition and fees to private schools anywhere (even outside the state) for families who either do not have access to public schools or who choose a private education for their children. Private schools must receive certain accreditations and teach certain courses, but other than this, tuition assistance is available to most private schools Maine students desire to attend.
Most private schools, that is, except sectarian schools who teach religion as part of their education.
Discrimination, pure and simple.
Maine justifies its discrimination as its attempt to avoid the establishment of religion through direct funding of religious schools, completely ignoring both the rights of its residents to freely exercise their religion and the churches themselves to provide religious and doctrinal instruction.
Two families, who could not afford to educate their children in private schools, but who had no access to public education, filed suit and ultimately ended up appealing their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In short (very short), earlier this week, the Supreme Court held that if the state pays for some private schools, it cannot withhold the same benefits to people of faith seeking a faith-based education for their children, thus reiterating and reaffirming the vital protections afforded by the First Amendment.
Read the opinion here.
Why this matters to you:
“So, what, I do not live in Maine.”
“Who cares, my kids attend public schools.”
The Constitution was created and drafted to severely and strictly limit the actions of the federal government, and later (through adoption the Fourteenth Amendment) of the states, but NEVER was it intended to restrict the rights and freedoms of U.S. citizens.
Furthermore, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) ensures protection of our God-given liberties, including free exercise of religion.
So, this case matters to you because it reiterates exactly that the Constitution protects the citizen, not the government. These two families were prohibited from educating their children in the manner they saw fit because Maine discriminated against them based on their religious beliefs.
Further, this matters to you in more ways than education. This ruling demands recognition that if the government provides a service to one group, it cannot withhold that same service from another group. If certain organizations provide certain services allowed by law, the government cannot prohibit a religion or church from doing the same. The government cannot attempt to mandate a church to close or limit its services if it does not do the same for all other organizations.
In other words, this ruling upholds the free exercise of religion for all (legal) religious acts that are allowed to others.
It is not about just religion. It is not about just school. It is about the Constitution!
What can I do about this:
It’s been said that we should never discuss certain issues at the dinner table, including politics and religion. Do you wonder why your children are straying from your religious and political ideals? One primary reason is that far too many parents do not talk about these vital topics, especially at the dinner table.
Have dinner tonight with your family. During your time together, mention this case (other very important cases will be handed down this week, so plan lots of dinners) and talk about why it is important that the government stop infringing on our constitutional rights. If you are not religious, talk about free speech, peaceable assembly, the bearing of arms, equal rights, etc.
It is the same – infringement is infringement.
Teach your children the importance of the Constitution and talk about what makes their lives better because our natural, God-granted freedoms and liberties are protected.
Read the Constitution. Find it here.
Then talk about what happens when those same freedoms and liberties are taken. Use the case we just discussed as the basis for your discussion. Regardless their religion, these families were blocked from educating their children because the state of Maine refused to treat them equally and fairly under the law.
Also, do not be afraid to voice your opinion to friends and neighbors when the topic arises.
Let’s talk this out!