Court Rules Vermont Cannot Deny Aid to Catholic School Students

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that officials in the State of Vermont violated the First Amendment by denying public tuition aid to students who attended private Catholic schools.

The Wednesday ruling struck down a Vermont rule that prohibited students attending private religious schools from taking tuition aid through the State’s Town Tuition Program (TTP). The TTP provides funding for students in towns where the public school system does not cover all grade levels.

Four students and their parents, along with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, filed a lawsuit when TTP administrators refused to provide funding for the school children, who opted to attend Rice Memorial High School — a Catholic school.

“Four years ago, the Supreme Court reminded states that it ‘has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion that can be justified only by a state interest of the highest order,’” wrote Judge Steven Menashi wrote in the court opinion Wednesday.

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