The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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Supreme Court hears Zelman v. Simmons-Harris

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris is the challenge to the Ohio General Assembly's Ohio Pilot Scholarship Program, a school voucher program. The program provides a voucher system to enable parents to send K-12 students to private schools. It has become a major First Amendment case because the predominant majority of schools participating in the program have religious affiliations.

The challenge began in the 6th Circuit Court in 1999, the case has made its way to the U. S. Supreme Court where five lawyers presented 80 minutes of argument on February 20, 2002. The following links provide a review of the issues as well as commentary by court observers.

Research by Jim Allison

For a brief case summaries, please see:

For excellent commentary on the U.S. Supreme Court hearing, please see:

High court's pending vote on vouchers won't be end of the story
Inside the First Amendment

By Charles Haynes
Senior scholar, First Amendment Center

March 03,.2002

Winning at the Supreme Court requires being able to count to five.

After listening Feb. 20 to what the justices had to say during oral arguments on school vouchers, I don't think either side can be entirely confident of counting past four. But the pro-voucher forces appear to have the edge.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist as well as Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia are clearly ready to declare vouchers constitutional. (Thomas as usual didn't ask any questions. But his position on this issue is well known.) Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens are just as likely to go the other way. . . .

Read Entire Article

For Updated discussions as of June 23, 2002, check these links

6/27/02 The Decision is delivered:

Supreme Court Rules on Voucher Case

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that tuition vouchers are constitutional, a landmark church-state decision that could fundamentally change the educational landscape by allowing wider public financing of religious schools.

Supreme Court Upholds School Voucher Programs


ACLU Calls Supreme Court Ruling on Vouchers "Bad for Education, Bad for Religious Freedom"

Supreme Court Upholds Cleveland Voucher Plan, Further Weakening Wall Between Church And State

Supreme Court Ruling For Religious School Vouchers Shifts Battle to States, Congress, Says AU
Despite Court Ruling, Voucher Schemes Will Still Face Major Hurdles, Says AU's Lynn

Stern Dissent as High Court Splits 5-4, Approves Cleveland Voucher Program to Aid Religious Schools
Supreme Court Upholds Voucher Aid To Religious Schools; Dissenting Justices Warn Of Religious Conflict

Supreme Blow to Public Schools and Wall of Separation Vouchers Still Face Long Road

Additional Information:

Vouchers: Talking Points Vouchers: Myths vs Facts Syllabus of Zelman Decision Text of the Court's opinion as written by Justice O'Connor

[Editor's note: This statement is especially rich: "The instant program is one of true private choice, consistent with the Mueller line of cases, and thus constitutional." (Chief Justice Rhenquist.) Guess who wrote the opinion in Muller as well as this case? None other than Chief Justice Rehnquist. It took him 19 years to accomplish it, but he finally gets to have his name entered into the church state jurisprudence record book.
It's all about politics.

Summary of Zelman Case

Transcript of Supreme Court Presentation

Nos. 00-1751, 00-1777 and 00-1779
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae
Prepared by the Solicitor General's Office of the Department of Justice
Also available as PDF file at

Nos. 00-1751, 00-1777, and 00-1779
Brief for the United States As Amicus Curiae Supporting Petitioners
Prepared by the Solicitor General's Office of the Department of Justice
Also available as PDF file at

Links to extensive information on Voucher Systems

FindLaw Case Summary and links to more information

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