On October 29th, the American Humanist Association (AHA) joined a brief filed in the Supreme Court of the United States in Carson v. Makin, regarding whether Maine’s tuition-assistance program supported by public funds must support religious schools under the First Amendment. The amicus brief was authored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and co-signed by the AHA and a number of other prominent religious and civil rights organizations.
“Using taxpayer dollars to fund religious instruction is fundamentally unconstitutional,” said AHA Legal Director and Senior Counsel Monica Miller.
The Carson v. Makin case was brought by two sets of parents who want to use public, state funding to send their children to private Christian schools. The friend-of-the-court brief asserts that Maine’s program differs from the program upheld last year in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, as Maine’s program characterizes schools based on the “religious use” of funds and whether a school promotes religion or teaches through a faith-based lens, rather than just the schools religious “status.”
The brief makes the argument that it is unconstitutional for public funds to support religious instruction. Since religious instruction in schools is a core means of supporting a ministry, states should not be required to fund religious instruction on an equal basis with nonreligious instruction, in accordance with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The brief calls upon the Supreme Court to affirm the ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Arguments in Carson v. Makin will be heard on December 8th. The AHA is vehemently opposed to the use of taxpayer dollars to fund religious instruction, considering that it results in the unfair, forced participation of the nonreligious in supporting religious indoctrination.
A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.