Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, through its Institute for Public Affairs, strongly criticized yesterday’s decision by the Maine Supreme Court to deny the appeal of five families who wanted to use state funded vouchers to send their children to a church affiliated school. The Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, under the auspices of COLPA, had joined with other Jewish religious groups in filing a friend of the court brief in support of the families.
In Maine, small towns that do not have their own public school system routinely cover the costs 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 now upheld as constitutional.
Nathan Diament, director of the Institute, issued the following statement:
Today we have been told by Maine’s Supreme Court 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 still 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.