December 8, 2021 – Americans United for Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser issued the following statement in response to today’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Carson v. Makin:
Today’s oral arguments in Carson v. Makin revealed that the Court’s conservative justices may be poised to turn America’s foundational principle of religious freedom on its head. That principle has never been understood as requiring the government to fund religious education, but several justices seem prepared to reinterpret it to mandate exactly that. The same justices also seemed to ignore the hypocrisy of calling Maine’s program discriminatory for requiring religious neutrality, while at the same time forcing the state to fund private religious schools that discriminate against LGBTQ, non-Christian, and other students, families, and employees.
Maine’s program is intended to support secular and inclusive education. Like church-state separation, public education is a unifying force in our society that ensures everyone is treated equally under the law regardless of what we believe, what we look like, our level of ability, or who we love. Yet religious extremists continue to pursue their long-term goal of diverting ever more money away from our public schools to private religious education – a trend that started in direct defiance of court-ordered desegregation.
One of the core reasons our country’s founders enshrined church-state separation in the Constitution was to ensure that the government doesn’t force taxpayers to pay for the private religious education of others. If the Supreme Court requires Maine to fund religious instruction, it will be the first time the court mandates that taxpayers must pay for religious activities – shamelessly undermining our country’s founding principles that form the core of our democracy.
Americans United, joined by 23 religious and civil-rights organizations, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in this case, urging the court to protect religious freedom and public education by affirming that Maine taxpayers are not required to fund religious education. The organizations explained that Maine’s policy of not providing government funding for private religious instruction is in line with long-standing Supreme Court precedent, including the court’s 2020 ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue.
Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at www.au.org.