The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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A table of important Establishment Clause cases dealing with religion and education: 1971 to 1977

The following table references Supreme Court cases dealing with religion and education. Cases are arranged by date.

Table compiled by Susan Batte


Note: in the final column, "S" designates a ruling favoring separationism, "A" designates a ruling favoring a non-preferentialist or accomodationist position, and "N" designates a neutral ruling.

Date Case Vote Issue Raised Holding/Rationale S/P/N
1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman and Early v. Dicenso, 403 U.S. 602 - PA & RI state statutes provided for direct aid to parochial schools with restrictions that the money only be spent for secular instruction 8:0 and 8:1 Does a state statute that provides for direct aid to parochial schools while restricting the use of such aid to secular instruction violate the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. The Court held that such plans cause excessive entanglement of civil authority and religion and recognized that the relatively few religious institutions that would benefit from such direct appropriations would promote divisiveness along religious lines S
1971 Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672 - Title I of the Higher Educational Facilities Act allowed for Federal loans and grants to colleges and universities for the construction of academic facilities. The act required that the facility must not be used for religious purposes for 20 years. 5:4 Does a federally funded program that provides direct aid to religious affiliated colleges and universities (1) have a sectarian purpose, (2) have the primary effect of advancing or prohibiting religion and (3) foster entanglement between civil government and religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court held that the Act was constitutional generally, but that the 20 year restriction of use of the facility to secular activities alone did foster excessive entanglement and was struck from the plan. The Court found several distinctions between colleges and universities to uphold the statutory scheme, including the fact that colleges do not have as their primary goal the indoctrination of students into a particular religion and the that college students are much less impressionable. A
1972 Essex v. Wolman,409 U.S. 808 - An Ohio statute authorizing grants to schools contained a provision for reimbursing parents of children attending non-public schools for tuition costs. Taxpayers sued to enjoin the enforcement of that provision of the Act. 8:1 Does an act providing educational grants to reimburse parents of parochial school children for tuition costs, though stating a secular purpose, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court held that stating a secular purpose alone was insufficient to validate the Ohio plan. Because the administrators of the grant would have to monitor the money given to parents of parochial school children to ensure it was not being used for religious purposes, the Court found that the plan fostered excessive entanglement with religion. S
1973 Hunt v. McNair, 413 U.S. 734 - A SC state bond issue authorized by an Educational Facilities Act loaned the proceeds from state bonds to a Baptist College. The money was used to fund a building project which was conveyed to the administrators of the Act until the Bible college could repay the loan 6:3 Does a state plan that allows for the loan of government funds to a religious affiliated college for the building of campus facilities, the conveyance of those facilities to a governmental authority and then reconveyance of those facilities to the religious affiliated college violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court held that the plan (1) had a secular purpose since all colleges could get grants under this program; (2) neither advanced or prohibited religion since the money could not be used to fund facilities used for religious purposes; (3) caused no excessive entanglement even though under the plan, the governmental authority could foreclose if the college failed to pay back the loan. A
1973 Levitt v. Commission for Public Education & Religious Liberty, (PEARL) 413 U.S. 476 - Involved a NY plan to provide funds to pay for testing, including teacher prepared tests. 8:1 Does a state statute that provides for direct aid to parochial schools violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court found that Levitt, Nyquist and Sloan had the purpose of advancing religion and violated the Establishment Clause. The plans made no attempt to ensure state funds were not being used for religious purposes. The tuition reimbursements were seen as a "reward" to parents for sending their children to sectarian schools. S
1973 PEARL v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756 - Involved a NY plan to pay for maintenance and repairs to non-public schools; tuition reimbursement for parents of parochial school children where family income was under $500 and tax deductions for parents of parochial school children where family income was between $500 and $25,000. 6:3 Does a state statute that provides for tuition reimbursement and tax deduction for parents of parochial school children violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court found that Levitt, Nyquist and Sloan had the purpose of advancing religion and violated the Establishment Clause. The plans made no attempt to ensure state funds were not being used for religious purposes. The tuition reimbursements were seen as a "reward" to parents for sending their children to sectarian schools. S
1973 Sloan v. Lemon, 413 U.S. 825 - PA plan for Tuition reimbursement for parents of parochial school children where family income was under $500. 6:3 Does a state statute that provides for tuition reimbursement for parents of parochial school children violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court found that Levitt, Nyquist and Sloan had the purpose of advancing religion and violated the Establishment Clause. The plans made no attempt to ensure state funds were not being used for religious purposes. The tuition reimbursements were seen as a "reward" to parents for sending their children to sectarian schools. S
1974 Marburger & Griggs v. Public Funds for Public Schools, 417 U.S. 961 - This NJ plan at issue reimbursed parents of non-Public School children $10 - $20 dollars for schools books and provided additional funds to schools for supplies, equipment and services. 6:3 Does a plan that provides direct aid to parents of parochial school children for textbooks and direct aid to parochial schools for equipment and services violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court affirmed the lower court's ruling that direct aid violated the Establishment Clause. "The interest of the public lies not so much in the continuation of aid to non-public schools as it does in the continued vitality of the Establishment Clause." S
1975 Meek v. Pittenger, 421 U.S. 349 - A PA statutory plan loaned textbooks, instructional equipment and materials to parochial schools and provided state paid teachers to parochial schools to provide remedial teaching, counseling, guidance and testing services. 6:3 Does a state plan providing aid to parochial schools in the form of textbooks, instructional equipment and materials and auxiliary services violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court held that under Board of Education v. Allen, loans of textbooks to parochial schools are permissible. However, the court also found that the loan of instructional materials had the primary effect of advancing the school's mission and providing auxiliary services necessarily created an excessive entanglement of religious and government. A/S
1976 Roemer v. Maryland Public Works Board, 426 U.S. 736 - A MD law provided for the appropriation of funds to private colleges, excluding those that awarded only seminary degrees, to use for non-sectarian purposes and required that the schools submit affidavits to verify what the money was to be used for and to report any changes in use. If necessary, the plan provided for a government audit of the school. 5:4 Does the appropriation of funds to private religious affiliated colleges and universities to be used only for non-sectarian activities or purposes constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court begins its opinion "We are asked once again to police the constitutional boundary between church and state." Even though some colleges benefiting from the funds required students to take certain religious classes, a divided Court held that the plan did not violate the Establishment Clause. The Court found the audit portion of the plan was too brief and inconsequential to foster excessive entanglement. A
1977 Wolman v. Walter, 433 U.S. 229 - An Ohio State law providing for a variety of services and materials to parochial schools was created in response to the Court's ruling in Meek. The plan included the loan of textbooks; appropriations of money to schools for state standardized testing, diagnostic health services on school grounds and therapy and counseling to be held at public schools; loan of instructional equipment to parents of parochial school children; and funding of field trips. 8:1 to 5:4 Does a state plan for aid to parochial schools in the form of loans of textbooks, funding of auxiliary services, loans of instructional materials to parents and funding of field trips violate the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment? The Court upheld all but the last two parts of the state statutory scheme. The auxiliary services were upheld because the Court was satisfied that the Ohio plan had cured the problem in Meek by providing for therapy and counseling at public schools and by funding only diagnostic health services and state standardized testing. However, the Court found that the loan of materials to parents was merely an attempt to circumvent Meek, and funding field trips did not allow for monitoring to prevent the advancing or prohibiting of religion. A/S
1977 NY v. Cathedral Academy, 434 U.S. 125 - Cathedral Academy incurred expenses under the statutory scheme struck down in Levitt (1973). In response, the NY legislature passed a law allowing parochial schools to be reimbursed for expenses they incurred prior to the date of the Court's Levitt decision. 6:3 Does a state law that allows a sectarian school to receive reimbursement for the expenses of record keeping and testing services already incurred and as allowed for in a prior statutory scheme - such scheme having been declared unconstitutional - violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? A similar issue arose after the Lemon decision (1971) and the Court allowed reimbursement where Lemon had provided for an injunction against further unconstitutional action. Levitt, however, enjoined past, present and future action. So the Court held that allowing reimbursement under Levitt would have the primary effect of advancing religion. S
1977 Byrne v. Public Funds for Public Schools, 442 U.S. 907- A NJ statute allowed the parents of non-public school children to receive a personal deduction of $1,000 against gross income for reimbursement of the costs of non-public education. 6:3 Does a state tax deduction against gross income for parents of parochial school children violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court affirmed a lower court's ruling that the tax scheme did violate the Establishment Clause. Since only parents of non-Public School children benefited from the plan, the lower court viewed Nyquist (1973) as controlling. Any plan that excludes a class of parents (here Public School children's parents) has the effect of advancing religion. S
1980 Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 - A KY statute provides for the placement of the 10 Commandments in all public school classrooms - funding to come from private sources rather than the state or federal coffers. A disclaimer appeared at the bottom of the display asserting that the 10 Commandments had a secular purpose for being in the classroom insomuch as they were the basis of Western Law. 5:4 Does a state plan for placing the 10 Commandments in all public school classrooms violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? The Court held "the pre-eminent purpose for posting the 10 Commandments on school room walls is plainly religious in nature." The plan was held to violate the Establishment Clause. S


Continue to Table 3

Copyright 1996, Susan M. Batte.