Everson v. Board of Ed.: Supreme Court Upholds State Funds for Parochial School Transport

Everson v. Board of Ed.: Supreme Court Upholds State Funds for Parochial School Transport

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Source: Wikipedia

Decided: Everson v. Board of Education - The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a New Jersey law providing for reimbursement to parents of parochial school students for transportation costs on public busses is constitutional.

The Supreme Court rejects the plaintiffs' argument that taxpayer support for religious education at a Catholic school violates the First Amendment. But the Court does so in a curious way because it first admits the following:

"The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance.

No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.' " (emphasis added)

So the Supreme Court admits that the government cannot use taxes for religious education in any way, but then rules that the government can uses taxes to provide transportation to ensure that kids get religious education.

Only Justice Jackson recognizes the inconsistency in the Supreme Court's decision. He writes in his dissent:

The resolution which authorizes disbursement of this taxpayer's money limits reimbursement to those who attend public schools and Catholic schools. That is the way the Act is applied to this taxpayer. The New Jersey Act in question makes the character of the school, not the needs of the children determine the eligibility of parents to reimbursement. The Act permits payment for transportation to parochial schools or public schools but prohibits it to private schools operated in whole or in part for profit. ...

If all children of the state were objects of impartial solicitude, no reason is obvious for denying transportation reimbursement to students of this class, for these often are as needy and as worthy as those who go to public or parochial schools. Refusal to reimburse those who attend such schools is understandable only in the light of a purpose to aid the schools, because the state might well abstain from aiding a profit-making private enterprise.
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