David and Amy Carson


Carson v Makin
No. 20-1088
United States Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Independent Women’s Law Center (IWLC) filed an amicus brief on Friday in support of David and Amy Carson, arguing that the state of Maine may not constitutionally exclude families who want to send their children to religious schools from the state’s tuition assistance program.

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the state of Montana could not rely on a provision in its state constitution to exclude religious schools from its private school scholarship program. Maine’s school voucher program dates from 1873. Under the Maine program, families who live in towns that do not maintain a public school may use public funds to send their children to the public or private school of their choice (even if that school is out of state), so long as the school does not teach religion.

The Carsons challenged the religious exclusion, but the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected their claim. The appellate court reasoned that, although states cannot disqualify schools from public aid programs simply because of their religious status or affiliation, states are not required to subsidize schools that would use the money to teach religious concepts. 

In its brief, IWLC argues that parents should enjoy a full range of options when deciding which schools their children should attend. In particular, IWLC contends that Maine’s prohibition on tuition assistance for private sectarian schools drowns out a critical message that should remain available to parents who want their daughters to hear it—that of all-girls religious institutions. 

Jennifer C. Braceras, director of Independent Women’s Law Center, issued the following statement: “Maine’s program was open to religious schools for a century. The state’s decision to exempt them from the program in the 1980s evinces hostility toward religion and suppresses speech in violation of the First Amendment.”

Inez Stepman, Senior Policy Analyst at Independent Women’s Forum, said, “In Espinoza v. Montana, the Court made clear that states may not privilege private non-sectarian schools over religious schools. The Court should hold Maine’s religious exclusion unconstitutional and grant parents the educational choice they deserve for their families.” 

Read the brief HERE.


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