SCOTUS violates the Church/State Separation in Maine

There has been the big ticket case, Roe V. Wade being overturned, that has garnered SCOTUS a great deal of very well deserved contempt and ridicule. Sadly, it was not the only game in play. Other cases have also been of considerable concern. Namely …

What was truly egregious about that last one is that SCOTUS lied. Justice Neil Gorsuch opens his judgement as follows …

Petitioner Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach in the Bremerton School District after he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet personal prayer.

If indeed Kennedy had simply walked to midfield after games and had a quiet personal prayer, then we would not be here. Nobody, and I really do mean absolutely almost nobody, would have been in any way bothered by that. The reality was him sucking in all the players of both teams and also announcing to the press that he was doing this, that was the concern. The kicker there that I have only recently realised is this – because SCOTUS lied, they have in effect ruled in that case that offering a quiet personal prayer after the game is just fine. What they have not given a green light for is the raucous very in-you-face prayer meetings mid-field while he was still on the clock, because that’s not what they actually ruled on.

The hole in church/state separation is not quite as big as I had initially assumed it to be.

OK, let’s move on and consider what happened in the Maine case. It is interesting because there is a real kicker at the end where some folks well and truly scuppered the attempt by SCOTUS to blow yet another hole in Jefferson’s church/state wall of separation.

Carson v Makin

If you happen to live in the state of Maine then you are guaranteed free public education right up to high school Graduation. If you happen to live in some remote part of the state that puts you beyond the reasonable reach of a public school then you do also have the option of going to a private school and the State of Maine will give you vouchers that you can use to pay for that.

Maine law stipulates that the private school should be non-religious.

A few years ago up pops First Liberty. Yes them, the same folks who represented the football coach Kennedy that I mentioned above. If there is some weird religious legal case in play then it will often be these folks. Remember the baker in Oregon who refused to sell cakes to gay people, yep you got it, that was also a First Liberty case.

The essence of their claim was this – it is illegal to not give vouchers for Christian Schools.

They lost, so off through the court system it goes … appeal, lost, rinse and repeat.

The lower courts took a rather sensible view of it all. The key issue is not that the schools had a religious ethos, but rather that they openly discriminated against LBGTQ people. One of the schools even mandated that teachers must sign this (via the ACLU)…

  • “God recognize[s] homosexuals and other deviants as perverted.”

In other words, Maine was taking the stance that there was no way that they were going to use public funds for shit like this, and the court agreed with that.

This was never about a school that happened to be run by a church. Rather, this was about them be sure that public funds were used exclusively for education, not religious indoctrination and discrimination.

Eventually the case reaches the Supreme Court. Remember, this is not just any Supreme Court, but rather one that has been packed with Religious Fundamentalists.

SCOTUS Decision – June 2022

Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that Maine can’t discriminate against these school for religious fanatics – The formal SCOTUS document can be found here.

Basically this is the essence of it. The ruling rests upon this clause from another case …

“A State need not subsidize private education,” the Court concluded, “[b]ut once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”

With this ruling it means that Maine taxpayers must now fund homophobic bigotry and also much of the other crazy and weird stuff that happens within such “educational” establishments, for example teaching pseudoscientific ideas such as creationism as fact.

The Dissent

Of course there was a dissent. Along with the fanatical Christian nationalistic justices we also have other more sensible justices who are unfortunately in a minority.

Justice Stephen Breyer writes …

Maine does not refuse to pay tuition at private schools because of religious status or affiliation. The State only denies funding to schools that will use the money to promote religious beliefs through a religiously integrated education—an education that, in Maine’s view, is not a replacement for a civic-focused public education.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor also dissents with this …

...The Court now holds for the first time that “any status-use distinction” is immaterial in both “theory” and “practice”… It reaches that conclusion by embracing arguments from prior separate writings and ignoring decades of precedent affording governments flexibility in navigating the tension between the Religion Clauses. As a result, in just a few years, the Court has upended constitutional doctrine, shifting from a rule that permits States to decline to fund religious organizations to one that requires States in many circumstances to subsidize religious indoctrination with taxpayer dollars.

Oh, and she also popped this into her dissent as well … “Today, the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.”

Now the punchline – How did Maine respond to all this?

I did promise a twist at the end of all this.

The folks in Maine were not stupid, they could see where this was all going and so they prepared for it.

Anticipating the ruling, Maine lawmakers passed a new law over a year ago … to be precise, this one.

Their educational vouchers are free to all students for any school. However, this new law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds being utilised for any form of discrimination.

So … the parents get to use the vouchers at these religious school only if the schools drop their Homophobic stance.

Have they done that?

Of course not, they much prefer to retain the bigotry that they are totally in love with.

See here …

183. If in order to receive public funds for tuition purposes Temple Academy could no longer require that teachers be born-again Christians, Temple Academy would refuse to accept public money. SR, Ex. 24 (Doc. No. 24-24, PageID# 732 (LaFountain 46:1 – 6)).

184. Temple Academy would not take public money for tuition purposes if it was conditioned on Temple Academy no longer being able to exclude homosexuals from employment as teachers. SR, Ex. 24 (Doc. No. 24-24, PagerD# 732 (LaFountain 46:7 – 14)).

If you have time to burn and are prepared for your jaw to hit the floor a few times, then via that link to a document on the SCOTUS website skip back to clause 79 and start reading to discover a bit more about those schools.

One last Thought

In normal times, law should generally be boring and of no real interest to the wider public.

The observation that it has all become very “interesting” is really not good a good sign.

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