1965 November 8

Wall of Separation Breached – Limited Federal Aid to Parochial Schools Approved


The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed on this day, for the first time providing substantial federal financial assistance to education. The law, however, contained a provision that permitted aid to students in parochial schools. Opposition to this provision, led by a coalition of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU, and the American Jewish Congress, had blocked education bills in Congress since the 1940s.

President Lyndon Johnson was deeply committed to federal aid to education as part of his Great Society program, and several of his appointees in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare managed to work out a compromise.

Under the new law, no aid went directly to parochial schools, but financial assistance for books and other materials was included in the law, on the theory that it aided individual students and not the schools. The advocates of separation of church and state fought this compromise to the end, but lost.

The battle over state aid to parochial schools continued, however. Several states passed laws providing assistance to parochial schools, in what was labeled “Parochaid.” These laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman on June 28, 1971.

Learn more about the separation of church and state from Americans United: www.au.org 

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

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