PORTLAND (AP) – A federal appeals court Friday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by two Minot families who sought to force the state to pay their children’s tuition at a Roman Catholic high school.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston concluded that the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause does not obligate Maine to make the tuition payments.

The ruling affirmed a judgment handed down in March in the U.S. District Court in Maine.

In their suit flied in 2002, John and Belinda Eulitt and Kelly Mackinnon claimed that a state law authorizing payment of tuition for secondary education is unconstitutional because it prohibits the money from being used at religious schools.

With Minot having no high school of its own, the families were sending their daughters to St. Dominic’s Regional High School, a Catholic school in Auburn.

The lawsuit cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of a voucher program in Ohio that offers parents a wide range of choices among secular and religious schools.

The appeals court rejected the families’ claim that the Maine law discriminated against them on the basis of religion because it forced them to choose between a publicly funded education and their fundamental right to religion.

“The fact that the state cannot interfere with a parent’s fundamental right to choose religious education for his or her child does not mean that the state must fund that choice,” the ruling said.



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