By Megan Gray, Portland Press Herald Staff Writer

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a challenge to a Maine law that bars students from using public funding for tuition at religious schools.

The plaintiffs have been aiming for the nation’s highest court since they filed their lawsuit in 2019. A judge in the U.S. District Court of Maine and the panel at the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston have so far sided with the state. The Supreme Court on Friday, July 2, announced that it would add the case to its docket for its next term.

Local school administrative units that do not have their own secondary schools can pay a certain amount in tuition for students to attend outside public or private schools, but Maine law does not allow that money to be used at religious schools. So three families sued the state last year to get that tuition reimbursement for their children at Bangor Christian School in Bangor and Temple Academy in Waterville.

The plaintiffs say the law violated their First Amendment protections for religious freedom, while the state says public money cannot be used for religious instruction.