Elliott Epstein’s column about his hope regarding the outcome of the Maine case (Carson v. Makin) that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, and his fears if the court finds in favor of the plaintiffs, are overblown (“Supreme Court to decide a key case in separation of church and state,” Jan. 16).

The plaintiffs are only challenging Maine’s “non-sectarian” requirement to be met before public funds can be released to pay tuition at a private religious school (Christian in this particular case), when the community in which the student lives has no secondary school. Under Maine’s insincere effort to embrace religious tolerance, but only if it is “non-sectarian,” it established ground rules for believing certain things, the first step in establishing a state religion, a blatant violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Freedom of religion posits sectarian beliefs and values at its very core. Maine’s requirement that these beliefs and values be silenced is discriminatory because specific sectarian elements or tenets of faith are integral to one’s faith. In effect, “non-sectarian” faith is no faith at all, because it says simply that it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere, when it does matter to Christians.

Clearly, this coercive stipulation by our state has already eroded the First Amendment by asking the petitioners to deny their religious values to receive what would otherwise be theirs. To require that these Christian families can have state money only if they accept the state’s definition of faith is exactly why the First Amendment exists.

Mark Wood, Poland

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