1971 June 28

Supreme Court Invalidates State “Parochaid” to Religious Schools

 

In an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decisions on separation of church and state, and the 1965 Education Act which barred direct federal aid to parochial schools, several states enacted laws providing state financial assistance to private and parochial schools. This approach was labeled “Parochaid.”

In Lemon v. Kurtzman, decided on this day, the Supreme Court declared these programs to be unconstitutional violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The decision established a three-prong “Lemon test” regarding government involvement with religious organizations: Any program (1) had to have a secular purpose; (2) could not have the primary purpose of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and (3) must not result in “excessive government entanglement” with religions.

The Court: “The sole question is whether state aid to these schools can be squared with the dictates of the Religion Clauses. Under our system, the choice has been made that government is to be entirely excluded from the area of religious instruction, and churches excluded from the affairs of government. The Constitution decrees that religion must be a private matter for the individual, the family, and the institutions of private choice, and that, while some involvement and entanglement are inevitable, lines must be drawn.”

Learn more about the Establishment Clause at the First Amendment Center: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/religion

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