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The US Supreme Court votes in favor of granting public funds to religious schools in the State of Maine | International

The seat of the Supreme Court of the United States, in Washington, in an image of 2018.
The seat of the Supreme Court of the United States, in Washington, in an image of 2018.Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)

Public funds for religious schools. The ultra-conservative turn of the Supreme Court of the United States has taken a new turn on Tuesday by ruling in favor of two Christian families from the State of Maine, who had denounced a public scholarship program for excluding private schools of religious ideology. It is the umpteenth decision of the High Court regarding religious rights since President Donald Trump shaped the composition of the Court in his image and that of the most conservative half of the country. The polarization is perceived more every day in the US, also in the laws.

In a decision taken by six votes in favor and three against – those of the three liberal members of the court -, the Supreme Court annulled a ruling by a lower court that had rejected the claims of religious discrimination of the two families, which they considered to be prevented them from free religious exercise enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, perhaps the most liberal of the progressive minority, has accused the six-member conservative majority of undermining church-state separation. “This Court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the framers of the Constitution fought to erect,” Sotomayor said.

The Maine decision builds on a 2020 Supreme Court ruling in a similar case from Montana, which paved the way for religious schools to receive taxpayer dollars. Until now, Maine has earmarked public funds as tuition assistance for private high schools for families living in sparsely populated areas of the state without public facilities. The requirement for these establishments to receive such aid was that the educational program be non-sectarian, leaving those that promote a particular religion and shape their curricula “through the lens of that faith” deprived of funds. The theory of creationism, in open contradiction with scientific Darwinism, to cite a single example.

The conservatism of the Supreme Court is increasingly assertive and patent, observers point out, especially in the priority of expanding the rights related to religious practice. Since the Trump presidency, whose electoral base was based, among other groups, on the most conservative Christians, judges have been especially receptive to complaints from Christian radicals about the alleged hostility of the Government towards religion, not only in the educational context. . The long-awaited ruling on abortion, in which the Supreme Court will presumably revoke the cornerstone of its constitutional protection, the doctrine Roe vs. Wadeis another sign of conservative drift.

The Montana ruling, which is considered the precedent of the one known today, was more closely contested, with five votes in favor and four against. The High Court upheld a tax incentive program for donors to a scholarship fund that provided money to Christian schools for tuition fees. The result of that vote has an easy explanation: it occurred at the end of July 2020, months before Trump, in the final stretch of his presidency, chose the ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the death of the progressive Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With the appointment of Barrett, the Republicans consummated the conservative turn of the Supreme Court.

The Montana and Maine rulings, however, reveal the presumed contradiction in terms between guaranteeing the free exercise of religion and another core element of the First Amendment: the separation of church and state, which prohibits the government from establishing a religion official or favor one religion over another.

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