Podcast: Michael Avi Helfand on Jewish Life and Law at the Supreme Court

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There aren’t enough public schools in Maine. By some estimates, about half of Maine’s school districts don’t have the facilities or faculty to educate the students who live in them. The state’s solution is to give families who live in such districts money to send their children to others school—either a different public school further away, or a private school. But Maine doesn’t make that funding available to families who choose to send their children to religious schools. In just a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Carson v. Makin, a case that could affect the way that Maine, and the rest of the United States, deals with the funding of religious schools.

On this week’s podcast, the legal scholar Michael Avi Helfand joins Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver to discuss the amicus brief that he filed for this case, and to explore whether Maine is acting in a way that is consistent with the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections. This particular case also allows for Helfand to question more fundamental legal heuristics, such as the supposed distinction in American case law between a legal entity’s religious “status,” and its “use” of religion.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

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