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Lawsuit Filed Against Religious School Prohibitions

September 13th, 2018

Three families recently initiated legal action in the US District Court over a Maine law that prohibits tuition reimbursements for religious schools.

Three families recently initiated legal action in the US District Court over a Maine law that prohibits tuition reimbursements for religious schools.

Three families in Maine recently initiated legal action in the United States District Court in Bangor against the commissioner of the Maine Department of Education over a law that prohibits tuition reimbursements for religious schools.

For several decades, this law has stated that secondary schools are able to pay tuition for students who attend public or private schools. This law, however, prohibits this compensation to be used at religious schools on the basis that doing so is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The Families who Initiated the Lawsuit

The families in question each have children in central Maine. One of the families is the Nelson family who are part of Regional School Unit 12, which does not have its own public high school. In Regional School Unit 12, parents select where to send their children after the eighth grade and the district compensates them a certain amount for the tuition.

While the Nelson family receives compensation for their daughter’s schooling, their son is about to attend seventh grade, and Region School Unit 12 has declined to pay for this education. The Nelsons have commented that they are experiencing a financial burden as a result and expect their children will graduate before their case is resolved.

The Nelson family is joined by the Glenburn and Orrington families who also have children who attend Bangor Christian schools.

The Organization Representing the Defendants

These families are represented by two groups that advocate for religious liberty, including the Institute for Justice.

This current challenge marks the third time that the Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit in Maine concerning this issue. In the previous two cases, the Institute for Justice lost.

The Institute for Justice decided to initiate this lawsuit a third time after the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Trinity Lutheran Church was allowed to participate in a program operated by the state of Missouri that reimburses the cost of rubberizing surfaces at playgrounds.

Joining the institute of Justice is the First Liberty Institute. These groups are arguing that by only barring religious schools from receiving compensation, Maine has violated the religious freedom and equal protection clause of United States constitution.

The Goals of the ULC Church’s Blog

If this lawsuit is successful, it would not have an impact on districts that send all their students to attend outside high schools. Currently, it is uncertain how many students in Maine live in areas that reimburse parents in such a way.

This lawsuit comes in the middle of a nationwide movement for alternatives to public schools and an increasing recognition of religious liberties. The ruling in this case could have a rippling effect considering that 30 states have constitutional amendments prohibiting the state funding of religious organizations.

Each month, the Universal Life Church’s blog strives to update readers on various developments concerning religion and the law.

(image courtesy of Drew Coffman)

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