Three families are suing Maine to force the state to pay tuition at the religious school of their choice. These families and the First Liberty Institute, the quasi-Christian nationalist law firm that defends them, believe that religious freedom means forcing the state to fund religious education.
However, freedom of religion also means the absence of religion. It is impossible to have one without the other. Freedom of religion prohibits states from using taxpayers’ money to pay tuition for religious schools. This would violate the freedom of religion of Maine taxpayers by requiring them to support a religion that is not of their choice. Where would their religious freedom then be?
Maine will pay public and private secular school tuition for students living in cities without public schools. Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey described the state’s policy: “An instruction that inculcates, inculcates, imbues a religious outlook through its materials, through its teachings, prescribing that there is a religion beyond above others and that there are certain ways in the world that are compatible with that religion…contradicts a public education.
However, forcing Maine to pay religious school tuition is not the ultimate goal here; establish America as a Christian nation with a constitutional amendment is. Other Christian agenda items include creating biblical laws for everyone to follow, ending a woman’s right to choose, returning Christian prayer to public schools, and posting Christian iconography on public property.
The role of the Supreme Court is to uphold the Constitution. Deciding that Maine cannot use public funds to pay for religious education would be consistent with the Establishment Clause.
But will they? Not likely. The main reason the Supreme Court agreed to hear the frivolous and unsubstantiated allegations in this case is that it offers the six Christian conservatives on the court an opportunity to advance their agenda, which has been building since at least 1980. with the election of Ronald Reagan.
About 40 years ago, Paul Weyrich, founder of the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, ALEC and the Moral Majority, got Reagan elected to advance the agenda of Christian nationalists. However, since Christian nationalists must be elected to state and federal offices to achieve these goals, and since Weyrich noticed that as the voting population increased the election of Christian conservatives decreased, he argued for voter suppression , now a key conservative strategy for winning elections. Weyrich also opposed secular schools because they indoctrinate students into the secular religion of atheism.
Christian fundamentalists have developed a worldview that divides the religious world into two categories: their own and everyone else’s. They regard their religion as the only true religion and all others, including the dominant religions, as teaching the religion of atheism. Viewing atheism as a religion is essential to understanding the sociopolitical agenda of Christian nationalists. The families suing Maine argue that since Maine will pay tuition to secular private schools that teach the religion of atheism, the state is discriminating against them by not paying tuition to schools that teach the Christian faith.
Everything indicates that the Supreme Court agrees with this argument. But deciding for the plaintiffs doesn’t automatically mean Maine has to pay religious school tuition. Maine can avoid paying religious school tuition by no longer subsidizing private schools. Court precedents do not require states to pay for religious education, but if they choose to pay for private education, they cannot discriminate against private religious schools.
No matter what Maine decides, the state will be in a bind. Failure to pay for private schools will raise the ire of parents with children in these schools. If Maine chooses to continue paying tuition for private schools, the state will also have to pay tuition for religious schools. By paying all private school tuition, Maine will endorse the fundamentalist religious school’s anti-LGBT hate speech and violate state Human Rights Commission policy.
If the plaintiffs win, they will soon apply the same argument demanding that Maine teach Christianity in public schools. They will claim that since the state teaches atheism in public schools, it discriminates against Christians when the public does not teach Christianity.
The Supreme Court would likely decide for the plaintiffs in this hypothetical case, but with a caveat. Since simply requiring public schools to teach Christianity would violate the government’s requirement of neutrality on religious matters, the court is likely to require public schools to teach all religions. Think about it.
Tom Waddell is president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He welcomes comments on [email protected] and https://ffrfmaine.org.
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