Maine: the next voucher battleground
Since Lionel and Jill Guay's town of Minot, Maine, has no high school, the state offers to send their 15-year-old daughter to other local schools. As with about 17,000 other Maine students from small towns, the state will even pay for her to attend a private school.
Just so long as it's not a religious school.
The Guays want to send their daughter to a Roman Catholic school, but Maine has a 1981 law prohibiting the vouchers from going to religious schools. So now the Guays and five other local families are filing suit.
It's all been to court before, and in 1997 the state's Supreme Judicial Court upheld the law, saying the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the use of vouchers for religious schools.
The court won't be able to make that claim this time around. The Supreme Court unequivocally ruled in June that religious schools should not be discriminated against in voucher programs.
Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe says the June decision isn't similar enough to the Maine situation to make it an open-and-shut case. Assistant Attorney General Sarah Forster puts it another way: the Supreme Court ruled that states can pay for religious schools. "But the question quickly becomes: Must they?" she tells the Sun Journal of Lewiston.
The answer is yes, based not on the June case but in many other cases since 1997 ("Nothing in the Establishment Clause requires the exclusion of pervasively sectarian schools from otherwise permissible aid programs," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in a 2000 case. Clear enough?) Still, Weblog is sure it'll take a while for this to be resolved.
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