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Courts and Crime

Court Upholds Maine Law Barring Taxpayer Funding For Religious Schools

Robert F. Bukaty
AP Photo

A federal judge has ruled that a Maine law prohibiting the use of publicly-funded tuition at religious schools is constitutional.

For the third time, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice filed suit last summer against the Maine law, this time on behalf of three Maine families. The law says that while some districts without high schools can send their kids to surrounding public or private institutions, the state will not reimburse tuition to religious schools.

U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled Wednesday that the Maine law is constitutional, and that a recent Supreme Court decision on a case out of Missouri does not supercede decades of precedent.

Zachary Heiden, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, says The law is well established.

"For many years, Maine has been committed to not funding religious school education with taxpayer dollars,” Heiden says. “And they've defended that decision successfully now, in court, at least a half a dozen times."

Judge Hornby acknowledged that the case would likely head to higher courts – and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tim Keller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, says his organization intends to appeal the ruling.

“As this case proceeds, we remain confident that we will be able to vindicate religious freedom and expand parental liberty for parents in Maine,” says Keller.