Carson v. Makin

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 21, 2022
  • Case #: 20-1088
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which THOMAS, ALITO, GORSUCH, KAVANAUGH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN J., joined, and in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined as to all but Part I–B. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

Programs that prohibit private beneficiaries from using public funds at religious entities violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Petitioners, who sought tuition assistance from Maine's tuition assistance program, were ineligible to receive tuition payments because they sent their children to "nonsectarian" schools. Petitioners argued that the "nonsectarian" requirement violated the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause. The First Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision in favor of Defendants, finding that the tuition assistance program's nonsecular provision did not violate the Free Exercise Clause. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the program violated the Free Exercise Clause. The Court reasoned that the public benefit was tuition payments, not a public education, and prohibiting tuition assistance from being used only at religious schools violated the free exercise of religion. Furthermore, the Court reasoned that this case was akin to Espinoza v. Montana Dep't of Revenue where it held that private beneficiaries’ use of public funds at religious entities did not violate the Free Exercise Clause. Therefore, Maine could not prohibit students from using tuition payments at secular schools. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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