SCOTUS Must Affirm Public Money Is For Public Schools, Not Private, Religious Interests

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December 8, 2021

Manisha Sunil, West End Strategy Team; Phone: 202-417-0171

SCOTUS Must Affirm Public Money Is For Public Schools, Not Private, Religious Interests
Religious freedom advocates are speaking out ahead of oral arguments in Carson v. Makin

WASHINGTON—In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that funding reaches those most in need. As the Supreme Court considers whether states are required to fund religious schools, religious freedom advocates with Interfaith Alliance are calling on the justices to maintain the boundaries between church and state.

“Every child can – and should – have the support they need to thrive,”  said Katy Joseph, director of policy and advocacy at Interfaith Alliance. “Robust funding and inclusive approaches to education are necessary to ensure that these vital institutions can meet the needs of every child that walks through their doors. By investing in our public schools, we strengthen our communities for generations to come.”

“But the Carson case is part of a growing movement to funnel money away from these community institutions and toward private religious schools, taxpayer dollars that are critical for retaining talented teachers and keeping the lights on. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the use of government funding for explicitly religious activities. A ruling mandating the use of public funds for religious schools would further starve already underfunded public school systems while inflicting lasting damage to the wall of separation between religion and government,” she continued.

 “While parents may choose a religious education for their child, they cannot insist that it be paid for by taxpayers.”

This past year, the Court held in Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue that states have to include religious and secular schools in taxpayer-funded voucher programs if they operate them. But a ruling in favor of the Maine parents would go one step further, requiring states to fund religious education. Interfaith Alliance joined 23 faith-based and civil rights partners in an amicus brief urging the Court to protect the separation of religion and government in school funding in this case.

“The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has emphasized the importance of directing resources toward those most in need. In the pandemic and beyond, we must focus our funding to ensure that students of all backgrounds and abilities – including LGBTQ+ people, women, students with disabilities, religious minorities, and the non-religious – can thrive,” said Maureen O’Leary, director of field and organizing at Interfaith Alliance.“When states divert public funds from our community schools toward private religious institutions, precious little is left to fulfill the promise of a public education. We cannot privilege the beliefs of a few over the needs of all.”

If you are interested in speaking further with Interfaith Alliance on this issue, please contact Manisha Sunil at (202) 417-0171 or