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Pervasively Sectarian Institutions

Research by Jim Allison.
As noted in our treatment of Everson v. Board of Education and the Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Supreme Court will allow states to provide some support to religious institutions so long as that support benefits only the secular aspects of those institutions. But this raises the issue of whether it is always possible to separate the religious from the secular for the purpose of public funding. There is a difference, for example, between funding a religiously-affiliated welfare agency that does not proselytize its clients (or otherwise discriminate on the basis of religion), and a private school that interjects religion into most of its classes. In the former case one can receive publicly funded services without being exposed to religious messages; this is not, however, an option in religious schools.

Institutions that combine the sacred and the secular so completely that they cannot be separated are called pervasively sectarian institutions. Generally, it is very difficult for such institutions to receive public funding. In Meek v. Pittenger (1975), for example, the Supreme Court held

Similarly, in Grand Rapids v. Ball (1985), the Court struck down a Michigan program that provided religious schools with public school teachers for the purpose of teaching certain secular classes: