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Lemon v. Kurtzman

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Brief Fact Summary. The state reimburses parochial schools for certain expenses associated with the education of its children.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. To be valid, a statute must have a secular legislative purpose, must not advance or inhibit religion, and must not excessively entangle church and state.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

To determine whether the government entanglement with religion is excessive, we must examine the character and purposes of the institutions that are benefited, the nature of the aid that the State provides, and the resulting relationship between the government and the religious authority.

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Facts. Pennsylvania has a statute that reimburses religious schools for teacher salaries, textbooks, and other instructional materials. Rhode Island has a similar statute that allows the state to pay private school teachers a 15% salary supplement.

Issue. Is it constitutional for the state to provide financial assistance to religious schools for the cost of teaching secular subjects?

Held. No. The statutes result in excessive entanglement between the government and religion. Excessive entanglement is determined by the character and purpose of the institution benefited, the nature of the aid given, and the resulting relationship between the government and church.

Discussion. The framers of the United States Constitution specifically and purposefully prohibited the establishment of a state church because of the inherent problems. The Establishment Clause was designed to avoid state “sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity.”


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