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LEMON v. SLOAN

April 6, 1972

Alton J. LEMON et al.
v.
Grace SLOAN, State Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Jose Diaz and Enilda Diaz, his wife, et al., Interveners


Hastie, Senior Circuit Judge, Joseph S. Lord, III, Chief District Judge, and Hannum, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

Plaintiffs brought this suit to declare the Pennsylvania Parent Reimbursement Act for Nonpublic Education *fn1" (the "Act") unconstitutional and to enjoin its operation. The Act is challenged as violative of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This court has jurisdiction of the controversy pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(3), 2281 and 2284. Presently before the court are motions of defendant and intervening defendants to dismiss the complaint for lack of standing and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 The plaintiffs are citizens, residents and taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who have paid the Pennsylvania cigarette tax which finances the Act. Plaintiff Lemon is also the parent of a Negro child attending a public school in Pennsylvania. Defendant Sloan is State Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and is sued in that capacity. Intervening defendants are citizens, residents and taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Interveners are parents of one or more students who are enrolled in nonpublic schools in Pennsylvania and interveners are eligible for tuition reimbursement payments under the Act.

 The Act provides for the reimbursement of tuition payments to parents whose children have completed the school year in a nonpublic school located in Pennsylvania which fulfills the compulsory school attendance requirements under Pennsylvania law and the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. *fn2" In its legislative findings and declaration of policy, the Pennsylvania General Assembly determined that parents who send their children to nonpublic schools assist the state in reducing the rising cost of public education. The General Assembly found that if inflation and rising costs of education force parents of children now enrolled in nonpublic schools to transfer a substantial number of their children to public schools, "an enormous added financial, educational and administrative burden would be placed upon the public schools and upon the taxpayers of the state." *fn3" Therefore, in order to insure that parents can continue to aid the state by sending their children to nonpublic schools and in order to foster educational opportunity for all children, the General Assembly established the tuition reimbursement program.

 The first ground of defendants' motion to dismiss is that the complaint fails to state a claim under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment upon which relief can be granted. *fn4" Plaintiffs allege that the Act authorizes payment for the tuition of students in educational institutions which

 
"* * * (1) are controlled by churches or religious organizations, (2) have as their purpose the teaching, propagation and promotion of a particular religious faith, (3) conduct their operations, curriculums [sic] and programs to fulfill that purpose, (4) impose religious restrictions on admissions, (5) require attendance at instruction in theology and religious doctrine, (6) require attendance at or participation in religious worship, (7) are an integral part of the religious mission of the sponsoring church, (8) have as a substantial or dominant purpose the inculcation of religious values, (9) impose religious restrictions on faculty appointments, or (10) impose religious restrictions on what the faculty may teach."
 
para 10 Complaint. *fn5"

 For the purpose of considering the motion to dismiss, we must accept these allegations as true. Therefore, the issue before us is whether the Establishment Clause prohibits the state from reimbursing parents for the tuition costs of sending their children to church-related elementary and secondary schools.

 The Establishment Clause was intended to protect against "sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity." Walz v. Tax Commission, 397 U.S. 664, 668, 90 S. Ct. 1409, 1411, 25 L. Ed. 2d 697 (1970). See also Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 67 S. Ct. 504, 91 L. Ed. 711 (1947), Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 82 S. Ct. 1261, 8 L. Ed. 2d 601 (1962).

 
"Every analysis must begin with the candid acknowledgment that there is no single constitutional caliper which can be used to measure the precise degree to which these three factors are present or absent. Instead, our analysis in this area must begin with a consideration of the cumulative criteria developed over many years and applying to a wide range of governmental action challenged as violative of the Establishment Clause." Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, 677-678, 91 S. Ct. 2091, 2095, 29 L. Ed. 2d 790, 798 (1971).

 In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-613, 91 S. Ct. 2105, 2111, 29 L. Ed. 2d 745, 755 (1971), the Supreme Court restated the three tests it has developed for determining whether a particular program offends the Establishment Clause.

 
"* * * First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion, Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 243, 88 S. Ct. 1923, 1926, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1060, 1065 (1968); finally, the statute must not foster 'an excessive government entanglement with religion.' Walz, supra, at 674, 90 S. Ct. at 1414, 25 L. Ed. 2d at 704."

 The stated legislative purpose of the Act is to aid parents to continue to send their children to nonpublic schools thereby fostering educational opportunities for both public and nonpublic school children. The legislative findings and declaration of policy indicate that the General Assembly is concerned with maintaining the present standards of public education which it finds would be seriously jeopardized if parents of nonpublic school children could no longer afford tuition costs and were forced to send their children to public schools. "A State always has a legitimate concern for maintaining minimum standards in all schools it allows to operate." Lemon, supra, 403 U.S. at 613, 91 S. Ct. at 2111. Therefore, according the stated legislative intent appropriate deference, we conclude that the Act expresses a legitimate secular objective consistent with the Establishment Clause. See Allen, supra, 392 U.S. at 243, 88 S. Ct. at 1926; Lemon, supra, 403 U.S. at 613, 91 S. Ct. at 2111; Tilton, supra, 403 U.S. at 678-679, 91 S. Ct. at 2096.

 We must next determine whether the Act has the primary effect of advancing religion. The very existence of this "test" reflects the Court's determination that there may be some forms of aid to church-related activities which do not involve that sponsorship, financial support or the active involvement of the state in religious activity which the Establishment Clause was intended to prevent. Although the Court "can only dimly perceive the boundaries of permissible government activity in this sensitive area of constitutional adjudication," Tilton, supra, 403 U.S. at 678, 91 S. Ct. at 2095, the Court has readily acknowledged that the test is not whether a religious institution derives some benefit from the government program. In upholding the constitutionality of federal aid for construction of buildings to be used for secular education at church-related colleges and universities, the Court stated:

 
"* * * Construction grants surely aid these institutions in the sense that the construction of buildings will assist them to perform their various functions. But bus transportation, textbooks and tax exemptions all give aid in the sense that religious bodies would otherwise have been forced to find other sources from which to finance these services. Yet all of these forms of governmental assistance have been upheld. [Everson, supra, Allen, supra, Walz, supra ] * * * The crucial question is not whether some benefit accrues to a religious institution as a consequence of the legislative program, but whether its principal or primary effect advances religion." Tilton, supra, 403 U.S. at 679, 91 S. Ct. at 2096. See also Walz, supra, 397 U.S. at 671-672, 90 S. Ct. at 1412-1413.

 In order to determine what factors distinguish permissible from prohibited aid, it is necessary to review briefly the Supreme Court decisions which have considered forms of aid to church-related schools under the primary effect test. In Everson, the Supreme Court upheld a state law which authorized the use of tax-raised funds to reimburse parents for the costs of transporting students to and from public and private schools. The Court held that the state could extend the benefits of public welfare legislation to all citizens despite the fact that such aid helped children to get to church-related schools and that there was the possibility that some children might not have been sent to church-related schools if their parents were required to pay transportation costs. The Court found that the purpose and effect of the law was to promote general public welfare by helping parents get their children safely to and from accredited schools. The Court concluded that the First Amendment does not require that the state cut off sectarian schools from general services "so separate and so indisputably marked off from the religious function." Everson, supra, 330 U.S. at 18, 67 S. Ct. 504, at 513-514.

 In Allen, the Supreme Court upheld a New York law which required local public school authorities to lend textbooks free of charge to all students in grades 7 through 12 including students attending private schools. The Court found no violation of the primary effect test for although the Court recognized that books can have an inherent religious significance which bus rides do not, the law provided that only secular books could be loaned and each book had to be approved by the public school authorities. The Court noted that the state has a legitimate interest in the manner in which private schools perform their secular education function. On the basis of the "meager record" in the case, the Court could not conclude that

 
"* * * either that all teaching in a sectarian school is religious or that the processes of secular and religious training are so intertwined that secular textbooks furnished to students by the public are in fact instrumental in the teaching of religion." 392 U.S. at 248, 88 S. Ct. 1923.

 Therefore, the Court upheld the law as providing a general service to all students which was consistent with the state's interest in promoting secular education in all schools.

 In Lemon, the Court held that a Pennsylvania law which reimbursed private schools for the cost of teachers' salaries, textbooks and instructional materials in certain specified secular subjects and a Rhode Island law which supplemented the salaries of teachers of secular subjects in private elementary schools violated the Establishment Clause because the programs involved excessive government entanglement with religion. Although the Court found it unnecessary to apply the primary effect test, the Court's analysis of the statutes in terms of this test is instructive. The Court reaffirmed its agreement in principle with the holding in Allen that "secular and religious education are identifiable and separable." However, the Court noted that both the Pennsylvania and Rhode Island legislatures recognized that "church-related elementary and secondary schools have a significant religious mission and that a substantial portion of their activities are religiously oriented." Therefore, in order to guarantee that state financial aid supports only secular education in these schools, the two legislatures imposed statutory restrictions on their aid programs. Although the Court did not reach the question of whether these restrictions effectively prevented the aid programs from having a primary effect which violated the Establishment Clause, it is clear from the opinion that the Court agreed that given the nature of the proposed aid and the character of the school, the state was required to impose restrictions to insure that the aid benefited only secular education in order to comply with the Establishment Clause.

 
"* * * The Rhode Island Legislature has not, and could not, provide state aid on the basis of a mere assumption that secular teachers under religious discipline can avoid conflicts. The State must be certain, given the Religion Clauses, that subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion -- indeed the State here has undertaken to do so." Lemon, supra, 403 U.S. at 619, 91 S. Ct. 2105, at 2114 (emphasis added).

 Finally, in Tilton, the Court upheld the constitutionality of federal aid to church-related colleges and universities for construction of buildings and facilities used exclusively for secular educational purposes. In evaluating the statute in terms of its effect, the Court first reviewed the provisions of the law and found that it was carefully drafted to insure that federally subsidized buildings would be devoted to secular and not religious functions. However, the Court concluded that a provision of the law which permitted unrestricted use of the buildings after 20 years violated the ...


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