Two New Skirmishes Break Out over Church/State Divide

By Martin Levine

Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled in the Trinity Lutheran case that Missouri must provide funds to an otherwise qualified church-sponsored preschool under a program designed to improve playground safety. At the time, NPQ warned that “the repercussions will send ripples through public and parochial school programs across the country.” Now, two new suits have been filed, one in the state of Washington and one in Maine, seeking further easing of the separation between church and state when it comes to school funding.

In Maine, communities that are too small to financially support their own schools provide financial support to families that can be used to pay tuition at other public or private schools. Currently, Maine, based on the need to separate church from state, does not allow those funds to be used for a church-sponsored school. According to Maine’s Sun Journal, the suit filed last week in Bangor’s US District Court challenges this decades-old law. The personal nature of the issue is illustrated by the story of one of the Maine litigants.

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