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MI Responds: Carson v. Makin

Education Pre K-12

Manhattan Institute scholars respond to the Supreme Court's decision this morning in Carson v. Makin, in which the court rejected Maine's ban on state funding to religious schools:

“Carson v. Makin is a victory both for religious liberty and for American school children. The majority makes clear, once again, that, when the government makes a benefit available to private institutions, it must treat religious institutions—including faith-based schools—fairly and equitably. And the opinion cements the core first-amendment principle that the Constitution requires government neutrality—and prohibits hostility—toward religious believers and institutions. At a time when educational options are more needed than ever, Carson also clears away a major hurdle to the expansion of parental choice in the U.S. by clarifying that, when states adopt choice programs, they must permit parents to choose faith-based schools for their children. This is good news for American school children. Faith-based schools have a long and proven track record of providing high-quality education, especially for our most-disadvantaged children, and policies that exclude them from private-school choice programs are both unconstitutional and unwise.”

Nicole Stelle Garnett is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a professor at the Notre Dame Law School. Twenty-five years ago, as a young attorney, Garnett filed the first lawsuit challenging the exclusion of religious schools from the school-choice program at issue in Carson v. Makin. (The case was Bagley v. Town of Raymond.) Her amicus brief in Carson v. Makin can be found here. She is the author of the book Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools' Importance in Urban America and the recently published Manhattan Institute report “Accountability in Private-School Choice."

“Today is a good day for educational freedom and the Constitution. This was an easy case, as Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion shows. States don’t have to have school choice programs (though they should if they care about educational opportunity for all!) but if they do, they can’t treat religious programs differently. After all, any funds flowing to parochial schools do so due to parents’ decisions, not state officials’, so there’s no establishment clause violation.”

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. Like Garnett, he filed a previous amicus brief in Carson v. Makin. Read his most recent op-ed, “Why I Quit Georgetown.”