By Vatican News staff reporter
The Bishops of the United States have welcomed a Supreme Court ruling that requires the State of Maine to fund religious education at private religious schools as part of its tuition assistance programme.
The programme pays for students to attend private school if their town does not have a public high school.
The ‘Carson v. Makin’ ruling
A previous decision by the First Circuit allowed the State to exclude religious schools on the basis that they include religion as part of their instruction.
However, the ‘Carson v. Makin’ ruling issued on Tuesday overturned this decision in favour of the petitioners, with 6 votes to 3.
States cannot exclude religious schools from public benefits
In a statement on the same day, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, said the Supreme Court “has rightly ruled that the Constitution protects not just the right to be religious but also to act religious”, noting that “this common-sense result reflects the essence of Catholic education.”
“Moreover, the Court has again affirmed that states cannot exclude religious schools from generally-available public benefits based on their religious affiliation or exercise,” they added.
The Blaine Amendments
According to the US Bishops, “it is fitting that this decision concerns a program in Maine, the state that James G. Blaine served as Senator in 1875 when he worked for the passage of the Blaine Amendment – a cynically anti-Catholic measure to amend the U.S. Constitution to ensure that no public aid be provided to ‘sectarian’ schools.”
While his effort was narrowly defeated, the Blaine Amendments were ultimately adopted in some form by 37 US States.
“These laws have nothing to do with government neutrality towards religion,” remarked the statement. “Rather, they are expressions of hostility toward Catholics. We are grateful that the Supreme Court continues to rebuke this harmful legacy.”