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Supreme Court Forces Maine to Fund Christian Schools, Undoing Centuries of Precedent

Washington, D.C.—Today, the church-state separation watchdog American Atheists condemned the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in Carson v. Makin, which forces Maine to financially support discriminatory Christian schools—and Christianity itself.

“With this decision, the Supreme Court has betrayed our nation’s founding principle that the government should not fund religion, including a majority religion like Christianity,” said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, Litigation Counsel at American Atheists. “This Court is destroying the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which protects all Americans—especially atheists and members of minority religions.”

American Atheists highlights the disastrous consequences of this ruling:

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling directly affects Maine taxpayers, forcing them to fund religious indoctrination, notably by discriminatory denominations of Christianity.
  • Carson v. Makin may be cited in the future to force taxpayers in other states to fund religious activities, even beyond education.
  • The two private religious schools involved in the lawsuit maintain policies that discriminate based on gender identity and sexual orientation. However, Maine’s Human Rights Act protects students from discrimination because of characteristics including sexual orientation and gender identity. Carson v. Makin undermines these protections in Maine and elsewhere.
  • This ruling considers Christian schools qualified to replace a religiously neutral education in Maine counties that are too rural to maintain their own secondary schools. This harms Maine families, especially atheists, and religious minorities, and all families and children who wish to be free from religious proselytizing by members of another religious group.
  • Carson v. Makin legitimizes discriminatory Christian schools and paves the way for them to replace religiously neutral public education in states across the country.

“The religious conservative majority on the Supreme Court is intent on placing the interests of Christians above all others, including individuals’ fundamental rights,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “These justices will keep working at breakneck speed to undermine nondiscrimination protections, replace public education with a discriminatory religious ‘education,’ and force Americans to fund conservative Christianity and other religions. This will harm countless Americans, especially children.”

“Extremists are weakening our democracy,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “Calls to reform and expand the Court to limit the impact of its dangerous Christian nationalist wing will only grow louder, as the Supreme Court tries to establish what can only be described as a theocracy. Today’s decision is appalling, but it isn’t the first and it won’t be the last.”

“As Justice Sotomayor said in her dissent, ‘the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.’ Today it’s public schools; tomorrow it will be abortion. Who knows what comes next? We are embarking on dangerous, uncharted territory,” Fish added.