A.M. v. French

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Description:  Vermont maintains a Dual Enrollment Program, under which high school students take college courses at public expense. The program’s main purpose is to promote opportunities for students to achieve postsecondary readiness through high-quality educational experiences. Students at public, secular private, and home-schools are eligible, but the state categorically excludes students at private religious high schools.


Parents to 2nd Circuit: Don’t let Vermont discriminate against children attending religious high schools

ADF attorney available to media following 2nd Circuit hearing Tuesday
Monday, October 12, 2020

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys
WHAT: Available for media interviews after court hearing in A.M. v. French
WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 13, immediately following hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. EDT
WHERE: Oral argument can be heard via livestream; to schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Alice Chao at (202) 734-8987 or submit a request online

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a high school student, her parents, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington will be available for media interviews Tuesday following oral argument in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in their lawsuit over Vermont’s discrimination against children based on the religious status of the high schools they attend. ADF Legal Counsel Jake Warner will argue at the hearing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue earlier this year and its previous ruling in the ADF case Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, support ending Vermont’s discrimination in the lawsuit A.M. v. French.

The 2nd Circuit cited the Espinoza decision last month when it temporarily halted Vermont’s discrimination while the case moves forward. The state’s program provides funding that allows high school juniors and seniors to dual-enroll in two free college courses before they graduate. In many places, students at public, secular private, and home-schools are eligible, but the state excludes students at private religious high schools, such as Rice Memorial High School, which the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington owns and operates.

“Vermont can’t discriminate against students simply because they attend a religious school,” said Warner. “When the state creates a system where it will pay for a student from a public or secular private school to take a college course at a public university, it can’t exclude a student from a faith-based private school and deny them an equal opportunity to attend the exact same public university class. This kind of prejudice against people of faith is unconstitutional.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Espinoza and ADF’s Trinity Lutheran case could not be more clear: The Constitution protects religious Americans against unequal treatment and prohibits laws that target Americans based on their religious status,” added ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch. “Vermont’s program includes public, private secular, and home-school students, but bars only students from private religious schools in many places, which is unconstitutional. As the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in 2017 in Trinity Lutheran, a state can’t bar religious individuals from public benefits simply because they are religious. The court shouldn’t allow the state to skirt its responsibility to operate a constitutional program.”

Thomas E. McCormick, one of nearly 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as co-counsel for the students, their parents, and the diocese.
 
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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Additional resources: A.M. v. French

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Previous news releases:

  • 2020-08-19: US DOJ: VT program discriminates against children attending religious high schools
  • 2020-08-05: 2nd Circuit halts Vermont’s discrimination against children attending religious high schools
  • 2019-08-01: VT families ask court to reject state’s request to be let off the hook for religious discrimination
  • 2019-05-09: DOJ files formal support of Christian students exiled from state program
  • 2019-01-30: Families sue Vermont for religious discrimination

Commentary:

  • John Bursch: Espinoza makes first splash in appellate courts (National Review, 2020-08-07)
  • Paul Schmitt: Education discrimination? (Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, 2020-07-10)

Legal documents, related news, and other related resources available in the right panel when this page is viewed at ADFmedia.org.