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Maine reacts to Supreme Court ruling to allow public funds for religious schools

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said he is "disappointed and disheartened" by the decision. The Maine Department of Education said it would review the decision.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said he is disappointed with Tuesday's ruling by the Supreme Court that will require Maine to include religious schools as part of a program that offers tuition aid for private education.

The court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Maine law that prohibits religious schools from receiving public funding.

Frey made the following statement in a release regarding the decision: 

“I am terribly disappointed and disheartened by today’s decision. Public education should expose children to a variety of viewpoints, promote tolerance and understanding, and prepare children for life in a diverse society. The education provided by the schools at issue here is inimical to a public education. 

"They promote a single religion to the exclusion of all others, refuse to admit gay and transgender children, and openly discriminate in hiring teachers and staff. One school teaches children that the husband is to be the leader of the household. While parents have the right to send their children to such schools, it is disturbing that the Supreme Court found that parents also have the right to force the public to pay for an education that is fundamentally at odds with values we hold dear.

"I intend to explore with Governor Mills’ administration and members of the Legislature statutory amendments to address the Court’s decision and ensure that public money is not used to promote discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry.” 

Frey said the Supreme Court decision allows religious schools to apply to receive public funds but said it's unclear whether any will do so.

"Educational facilities that accept public funds must comply with antidiscrimination provisions of the Maine Human Rights Act, and this would require some religious schools to eliminate their current discriminatory practices," Frey said.

The case was brought by Maine families who want to use a state tuition program to send their children to Christian schools in Bangor and Waterville.

Lower federal court justices ruled against the families, and the families appealed the decisions, arguing that the exclusion of religious programs was unconstitutional.

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin was unavailable Tuesday afternoon, but spokesman Marcus Mrowka told NEWS CENTER Maine that “The Department is reviewing the decision for its implications for Maine schools and will implement the State’s tuition program in accordance with the ruling.”

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