ACLU of Maine Applauds House Rejection of Taxpayer Funding of Religion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org Augusta – The ACLU of Maine applauds a vote by the Maine State House of Representatives today to reject a bill that would have allowed taxpayer dollars to flow to religious schools. The bill now moves on to the Senate. “Maine has limited money for education and cannot afford to subsidize a private religious school system that only benefits some students,” said Zach Heiden, Legal Director of the ACLU of Maine. “The legislature rightly avoided government entanglement with religion by rejecting taxpayer funding of religion.” The ACLU of Maine testified at the public hearing on this bill and lobbied for its defeat. Last year the legislature rejected four bills, (LD 250; LD 1044; LD 1092; and LD 1287), that would have allowed for public funding for religious schools. “The state has a constitutional responsibility to treat all people, regardless of religion, equally,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine. “It’s important that the government not favor some religions over others, and that means not funding religion.” The ACLU of Maine has defended Maine’s decision to keep religious schools out of the school tuitioning program in four cases: Bagley v. Raymond School Dep’t, 728 A.2d 127 (Me. 1999); Strout v. Albanese, 178 F.3d 57 (1st Cir. 1999); Eulitt v. Dep’t of Educ., 386 F.3d 344 (1st Cir. 2004); and Anderson v. Town of Durham, 895 A.2d 944 (Me. 2006). In all of those cases, the Maine Law Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld Maine’s long-standing decision against funding religious schools with public money. In Joyce vs. the State of Maine, 951 A.2d 69 (Me. 2008), the Maine Law Court ruled that municipal subsidy of sectarian schools is not substantially different from the use of state funds for tuition.

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