Breyer argued that the interpretation of the First Amendment advanced by the majority opinion will work against its “general purpose,” which he said is “to allow for an American society with practitioners of over 100 different religions, and those who do not practice religion at all, to live together without serious risk of religion-based social divisions.”
He also argued that Maine “excludes schools from its tuition program not because of the schools’ religious character but because the schools will use the funds to teach and promote religious ideals.”
“State funding of religious activity risks the very social conflict based upon religion that the Religion Clauses were designed to prevent. And, unlike the circumstances present in Trinity Lutheran and Espinoza, it is religious activity, not religious labels, that lies at the heart of this case,” Breyer maintained.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, chairmen of the US bishops's committees for religious liberty and Catholic education, respectively, commented that "The Supreme Court has rightly ruled that the Constitution protects not just the right to be religious but also to act religious. This common-sense result reflects the essence of Catholic education ... In our pluralistic society, it is vital that all people of faith be able to participate in publicly available programs and so to contribute to the common good."
"It is fitting that this decision concerns a program in Maine, the state that James G. Blaine served as Senator in 1875 when he worked for the passage of the Blaine Amendment – a cynically anti-Catholic measure to amend the U.S. Constitution to ensure that no public aid be provided to ‘sectarian’ schools. While his effort was narrowly defeated, Blaine Amendments were ultimately adopted in some form by 37 states. These laws have nothing to do with government neutrality towards religion. Rather, they are expressions of hostility toward Catholics. We are grateful that the Supreme Court continues to rebuke this harmful legacy," the bishops concluded.
Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association, called the majority opinion “another blow to bigoted and arcane anti-Catholic laws. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that parents want and deserve better school choices for their kids. Religious families, and even families that aren’t religious but see the value in faith-based schools, should not be cut out from programs that help parents make the best educational choice for their kids. Maine’s law and others like it especially hurt low-income children who suffer the most in failed schools. Today’s win helps to end anti-religious discrimination and expands sorely-needed school choice for low-income families.”
Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, a law firm focused on religious freedom, commented: “We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country. Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government.”
The Second Vatican Council's 1965 declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum educationis, said that parents "must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools."
"Consequently, the public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children."
The Catholic News Agency (CNA) Staff are a team of journalists dedicated to reporting news concerning the Catholic Church around the world. Our bureaus are located in Denver, Washington, and Rome. We have sister language agencies in Kenya, Germany, Peru, Brazil, and Italy. CNA is a service of EWTN News. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.