CV NEWS FEED // A Catholic family of five and a Catholic high school sued Maine on June 13 for allegedly excluding faith-based institutions from a century-old tuition support program for rural households.
Maine regulators continue to reject faith-based schools and families that need tuition support, despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2022.
The Radonis family and St. Dominic Academy, a Catholic Diocese of Portland secondary school, are battling to support rural families in educating their children according to their beliefs in St. Dominic Academy v. Makin.
Keith and Valori Radonis are rural organic farmers. They want their children to attend Catholic school. In 1982, Maine began to exclude faith-based schools and their families from a state tuition aid program. Today, Maine will pay for rural families to send their kids to out-of-state boarding schools and public schools in Canada, but not to its own religious schools.
“As Catholic parents, we want to give our children an education that helps them grow in heart, mind, and spirit, preparing them for lives of service to God and neighbor,” Keith and Valori Radonis said. “Maine’s tuition program should allow religious families like ours to choose the best education for their children.”
Becket, a law firm that promotes religious freedom, represents the Radonis family’s and St. Dominic’s challenge to Maine’s policy in federal court.
“For more than 100 years, St. Dominic Academy has been serving Maine families,” Becket said on Twitter:
And for decades, Maine paid Diocesan schools like St. Dominic to educate kids in rural areas where there were no public schools. As the Supreme Court taught Maine just last year, states cannot bar organizations from generally available funding just because of their religious values.
In Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court ruled that Maine could no longer ban faith-based institutions from their tuition system. According to Becket, Maine authorities approved a new statute to reimpose the Carson limitation, and other limits, while the Supreme Court considered the ruling.
Maine’s new rules prohibit tuition-funded schools from having Mass unless they also allow equivalent religious practices like Baptist revival meetings. Instead of parents or schools, the state’s Human Rights Commission gets the final say on how Catholic teachings on marriage, gender, and family life are taught.
Becket has said that they will urge the court to immediately block Maine’s faith-based education prohibition while it evaluates the case.
Becket senior counsel Adèle Auxier Keim argues that Maine cannot prevent parents from sending their children to religious schools because they teach the faith, nor can it avoid the Supreme Court by altering its statute to ban religious schools.
“Maine is willing to pay for kids to go to all-girls boarding schools in Massachusetts and public schools in Quebec, but parents who choose Catholic schools like St. Dominic—which have been educating Maine kids for more than a century—are still out in the cold,” Auxier said. “Maine lawmakers boasted about changing the law to avoid the Supreme Court’s decision in Carson. That’s illegal and unfair. We are confident that Maine’s new laws will be struck down just like their old ones were.”