Supreme Court Conservatives Are Trying To Do Away Entirely With the Separation of Church and State
The Supreme Court handed down a number of decisions today, and while none of them were Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization—the case that will dismantle Roe v. Wade according to a leaked decision draft—there was still plenty of upsetting news.
In the case of Carson v Makin, the court ruled that tax dollars in Maine can go to funding religious education, a clear attack on the separation of church and state. The question was over rural areas that don’t have public schools, and whether taxpayer money could then be used to fund explicitly religious education. The court ruled 6–3 along party lines that it could.
The court just ruled that taxpayers must fund religious education.— Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis (@RevJacquiLewis) June 21, 2022
We are hurtling towards theocracy.
But, as Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissenting opinion, this has enormous slippery-slope implications for future cases. “What happens once “may” becomes “must”?” he wrote. “Does that transformation mean that a school district that pays for public schools must pay equivalent funds to parents who wish to send their children to religious schools? Does it mean that school districts that give vouchers for use at charter schools must pay equivalent funds to parents who wish to give their children a religious education? What other social benefits are there the State’s provision of which means—under the majority’s interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause—that the State must pay parents for the religious equivalent of the secular benefit provided?”
Here is Breyer asking the next logical question: Does this ruling mean that states must provide equal funding to private religious schools and public schools? Taken at face value, Roberts’ decision has the potential to dismantle secular public education. https://t.co/saVbopQJyq pic.twitter.com/ICQXbBbI6o— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) June 21, 2022
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a separate dissenting opinion, writing, “This Court continues to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build.” That’s a road she says the court started down years ago and that they’ve been chipping away at that wall ever since. She also quotes her own past opinions on the matter, citing times she warned the court that this is where we were heading.
“What a difference five years makes. In 2017, I feared that the Court was ‘lead[ing] us . . . to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment,’” she writes, with the SCOTUS equivalent of an I told you so. “Today, the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.”
Sotomayor also points out that allowing/requiring tax money to be used to fund religious education means that “while purporting to protect against discrimination of one kind, the Court requires Maine to fund what many of its citizens believe to be discrimination of other kinds.” She specifically cites two Maine Christian schools’ policies “denying enrollment to students based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion.”
Republicans have spent decades working to reach the moment when the Supreme Court is stacked with religious zealots, and this—just like the looming abortion ruling—is exactly what they were hoping would happen when they got there.
(image: Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]