Universal Life Church Case Law
Phone: (614) 715-9048 Fax: (614) 715-9049
Email: info@ulccaselaw.com
ULC Case Law
1629 K Street NW, Ste 300
Washington, D.C. 20006


Fourth Circuit Court Decides Issue About Religious Education in Maryland

October 20th, 2017


A federal appeals court ruled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not require a public school to offer religious education.

A federal appeals court ruled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not require a public school to offer religious education.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a Maryland public school district does not have to pay for the religious education of a Jewish student. This case has defined important boundaries about the extent of education that public schools in Maryland are required to provide children.

The Rationale Behind the Court’s Opinion

The court’s opinion was authored by Judge G. Steven Agee who argued that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not require a school to provide a religious education in that student’s preferred religion. Rather than offer cultural or religious protection, Judge Agee argued that instead, Maryland’s public schools are required to provide students with equal access to education despite disabilities. In making this case, the judge relied on a court opinion concerning efforts to create an Individualized Education Program for a student with intellectual disabilities.

The Role of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individual with Disabilities Education Act is a four-part section of legislation that makes sure students with disabilities are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education. The Act requires that public schools created Individualized Education Programs for each student who is found eligible under applicable federal and state disability standards. Individualized Education Programs specify what types of services a disabled student must receive. When a child is deemed to qualify for services under this Program, a specialized team must meet to design an education plan. In short, the Fourth Circuit’s opinion in this case came to the conclusion that while a child’s disability is covered under the program, it does not extend to administering a religious education for the child.

Prior Important Case History

A lower court in 2015 previously ruled that the district also was not required to make these payments. The case in question was initiated when a married couple brought legal charges against Montgomery County Public Schools by arguing that the school district was inadequate because it did not include teaching practices observed in the family’s Orthodox Jewish community. This case resulted after the family and Maryland school district participated in a lengthy hearing process before a Maryland administrative judge.

Response to the Fourth Circuit Court’s Opinion in this Case

The ruling in question has been praised by various organizations including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who had joined an amicus brief to the case in 2016 by arguing that the couple in question was not entitled to taxpayer funds for the child to receive a Jewish Orthodox education. The organization offered that the parents did have the right to obtain private religious education for the child. While the laws concerning the separation of church and state have existed in this country since its origins, there are many cases each year that further define how these laws are applied in our country.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

By continuing to read the Universal Life Church’s blog, individuals can remain up to date about how these issues change over time.

(image courtesy of Kimberly Farmer)

Leave a Reply