Church Law and Tax 1989-07-01 Recent Developments Schools Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA •

Church Law and Tax 1989-07-01 Recent Developments


The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine ruled that a state law regulating homeschooling did not violate the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom. The Maine “compulsory education” law requires that children attend either a public school or “obtain equivalent instruction that is approved by the commissioner [of education].” Parents who homeschooled their children argued that “any judgment by government officials of the merits of parents’ educational choices is a usurpation by the state of the God-given, constitutionally protected religious autonomy of the family.” They directly challenged the legality of the Maine law. The court, citing Supreme Court rulings, stated that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom is not violated unless the alleged victims can demonstrate that the exercise of their sincerely-held religious beliefs is restrained by the challenged governmental action, and that the challenged action is not based on a “compelling public interest.” The court acknowledged that the Maine law imposed a significant restraint on the exercise of the parents’ sincerely-held religious beliefs. But, it concluded that the state law was supported by a compelling interest that outweighed the parents’ constitutional rights, since “it is settled beyond dispute, as a legal matter, that the state has a compelling interest in ensuring that all its citizens are being adequately educated.” Blount v. Department of Educational and Cultural Development, 551 A.2d 1377 (Me. 1988).

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