Maine Court Bars Town Funds For Religious Schooling

Maine towns may not use their public funds to pay for tuition at religious schools, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled.

Jason and Priscilla Joyce of Swans Island brought the lawsuit after the town discontinued tuition for the Joyce children at Life Christian Academy. They contended that state law bans the use of state money, but not town money, at religious schools.

The state high court unanimously disagreed, holding that no public funds may go to religious instruction. In its July 1 ruling in Joyce v. State of Maine, the justices said differentiating between money raised by the state and money raised by a municipality would be “to invite a shell game with public monies. We decline to endorse such a scenario.”

The court also said it does not matter whether the money was paid to the school directly or whether it went to the parents to pay for tuition.

“The subsidy’s direct correlation to sectarian school tuition makes its intent unmistakable, and the end result is the same,” the justices ruled.