PORTLAND – A lawsuit challenging the exclusion of religious schools from the state’s tuition program is before a federal judge.
The Gillis family and two other families from Maine have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s high school tuition program.
Alan Gillis said his daughter, Isabella, was attending a public school but they made the decision to send her to Bangor Christian instead.
“They meet the academic criteria, the only reason why the state won’t pay for Bangor Christian is because it’s affiliated with a religion,” said Gillis.
Several small towns throughout the state don’t offer public high school. The state gives parents in these towns the option to select a public or private school and will pay to send their child to the school of choice. However, it excludes religious schools as an option.
“One of the fundamental rights that all parents enjoy is the right to direct the education and upbringing of their own child,” said Tim Keller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice.
Keller said this is the fifth lawsuit challenging the exclusion of religious options from the program.
“In the prior cases, the courts denied families tuition to religious schools,” said Keller.
But Keller said a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court case could change the outcome this time.
“It struck down a program in the state of Missouri which prohibited religious options from participating,” said Keller.
Keller said the judge will have three options.
“Rule for us, rule against us, or set the case for trial,” Keller said.
Gillis said regardless of the outcome, Isabella will continue classes at Bangor Christian.
“It’s not really the money. The point is, the state, we feel we’re being discriminated against,” Gillis said.