On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard a free-exercise challenge to a scholarship program in Maine that pays for some students to attend private schools but excludes from the program schools that provide any kind of religious instruction.

Oral arguments in Carson v. Makin were fascinating as the justices dove into religious liberty issues, including the establishment clause. The Institute for Justice’s Michael Bindas argued that the state’s program discriminates on account of religion, something the justices have already deemed is clearly unconstitutional.

“Maine's sectarian exclusion discriminates based on religion,” Bindas said. “Like all discrimination based on religion, it should be subjected to strict scrutiny and held unconstitutional unless Maine can show that it is necessary to achieve a compelling government interest.”

For the most part, the justices seemed to side with Bindas’s argument, particularly Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who pressed the opposing counsel, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart of the Department of Justice, often and with practical examples of how Maine’s law does discriminate based on religion. Here was one such example:

“Mr. Stewart, you're suggesting that with, say, two neighbors ... in Maine ... there's not a public school available, and the first neighbor says, 'We're going to send our child, children, to secular private school.' They get the benefit. The next-door neighbor says, 'Well, we want to send our children to a religious private school,' and they're not going to get the benefit. ... That's just discrimination on the basis of religion right there ... at the neighborhood level.”

At one point during oral arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts, who is not always entirely in alignment with the other more “conservative” justices, hammered his point home to the opposing counsel with a hypothetical that demonstrated just how much Maine’s law discriminated purely on the basis of religion, saying: “We have said that that is the most basic violation of the First Amendment religion clauses, for the government to draw distinctions between religions based on their doctrine.”

Although there were some specific differences between this case and similar, previous cases, the Supreme Court has tackled this subject multiple times — so much that I’m surprised Maine instituted such an obviously discriminatory program. Last year, the court ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that Montana could not exclude religious schools from a scholarship program due to bigoted Blaine amendments. It’s disappointing that these kinds of cases continue to crop up nationwide despite the Supreme Court’s consistent record on this topic.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed an amicus brief in this case. In a case they represented four years ago, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, the Supreme Court ruled that religious schools cannot be barred from generally available government programs. In a statement to the Washington Examiner, John Bursch, a senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy for ADF, said he believes the Supreme Court will again side against this kind of religious discrimination.

“The government cannot discriminate against people of faith who wish to act consistently with that faith in all areas of their lives,” Bursch said. “Because numerous justices focused on Maine’s religious discrimination at [Wednesday’s] argument, including scrutinizing schools and their curricula to determine if the schools are 'the right kind' of religious, we are hopeful that the court will issue a broad ruling prohibiting discrimination against religious families and schools.”

Nicole Russell (@russell_nm) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota.