Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs, joined with the Christian Legal Society in filing a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a petition asking the high court to review a Vermont tuition benefit program for rural families. The brief was drafted by Professor Tom Berg of the Cumberland University Law School.
In Vermont, residents of small towns that do not have their own public school system are eligible for state funding toward the cost for residents’ children to attend public or private schools in neighboring communities. Parents who wish to send their children to private parochial schools have been barred from receiving these subsidies. It is this unequal policy that was challenged in court and upheld by Vermont’s supreme court as constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review a similar ruling with regard to a similar program conducted by the State of Maine.
Nathan Diament, director of the Institute, issued the following statement:
Vermont’s Supreme Court has ruled that the United States Constitution requires that a state discriminate against parents who wish to send their children to religious schools and not to afford them a subsidy that they provide all other parents. We believe this holding is clearly wrong for it is inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution, not to mention numerous decisions of the Supreme Court. Our brief to the court asserted that to provide state education subsidies to a class of parents with children in school except for those who elect to send their children to religious schools is to unconstitutionally discriminate against religion. We are confident that this misguided understanding of the Constitution will be reversed by the United States Supreme Court when they directly join this national debate. We are anxious for the nation’s highest court to take on this critical issue and settle this debate once and for all.