VDH Files Amicus Brief in First Circuit Case That Validates Maine Tuition Program

VDH attorney John Foskett worked with the National School Boards Association and the four state school boards located in the First Circuit and filed an amicus brief.  The plaintiffs claimed that Maine’s tuition assistance program violates the First Amendment’s bar on religious discrimination because, while it permits school districts that are unable to offer a full public education program to their residents to instead offer tuition assistance for attendance at private schools, it bars that assistance where the chosen school is sectarian. The amicus brief argued that there is no discrimination because the plaintiffs are not deprived of a benefit based on religion – they are being given the same opportunity to receive the benefit of a public education as is given to all others in the same districts without regard to religion. The First Circuit agreed and distinguished this case from two recent Supreme Court decisions (Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza) regarding what constitutes discrimination based on religion when the state makes a publicly-funded benefit available. Unlike those cases, the Court of Appeals held that the plaintiffs in this case sought to make a religious use of public funds and that the state could properly refuse to consent to that use.