When the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided that Maine’s policy of excluding religious schools from its tuition-assistance program violated the First Amendment, the average person – even the average lawyer – probably assumed that the high court meant what it said.
But Maine’s top lawyer, Attorney General Aaron Frey, isn’t your average person – or lawyer. Following the Supreme Court decision on June 21, Frey released a statement expressing disappointment with the high court’s ruling, but then criticized the Christian schools involved in the case, warning that such schools would still not receive any government funds if they hold to their biblical values about sexuality and marriage.
“Public education should expose children to a variety of viewpoints, promote tolerance and understanding, and prepare children for life in a diverse society,” Frey’s statement reads. “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.”
Shocking stuff, right? No, not really. Christian schools teach and adhere to biblical values. That fact surprises absolutely no one – except for, perhaps, Maine’s attorney general.
But we suspect he knows better.
“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,” Frey’s statement continues. “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.”
Just for the record, it’s necessary to perhaps point out that Christian parents in Maine pay their taxes as well. Frey seems to think they don’t deserve the benefit of the use of that money they contributed to the state’s coffers.
Back to Frey’s “statement.” Apparently, Frey isn’t going to wait to “explore” anything with the governor or state legislature. The last line of his official statement gives his true intent away.
“Educational facilities that accept public funds must comply with anti-discrimination provisions of the Maine Human Rights Act, and this would require some religious schools to eliminate their current discriminatory practices.”
There it is. Religious schools can participate in the state’s tuition assistance programs as long as they’re not religious, Frey says.
Christian schools, in particular, would have to reject the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality in order to comply with Frey’s peculiar interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling. The same would apply to Muslim or Hebrew schools, no doubt.
To put it nicely, Frey’s position is not very First Amendment friendly.
Carroll Conley is the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, an ally of Focus on the Family. He spoke to Fox News about Frey’s statement.
“We commend the nation’s highest court for striking down Maine’s 40-year discriminatory prohibition of sectarian schools’ participation in tuition programs,” Conley said. “Our AG‘s response to losing this case was simultaneously baffling and offensive. His assertion that sectarian schools are ‘inimical to a public education’ simply for not aligning with the state’s orthodoxy regarding human sexuality is the very definition of bigotry.”
Perhaps as time passes and cooler heads prevail, Maine’s attorney general will realize that his latest position is worse than the one struck down by the Supreme Court. Unsurprisingly, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion protects you from being forced by the government to abandon your religious beliefs in exchange for participating in a public program.
State Can’t Discriminate Against Religion in Tuition Assistance Program, Supreme Court Rules
Supreme Court Preview: Can a State Bar a Tuition Assistance Program Being Used for Faith-Based Schools?
Looking Ahead: SCOTUS to Consider Abortion, Religious Education Cases
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