Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Helms (Respondent), filed suit alleging that the application of Chapter 2 in Jefferson Parish Louisiana was in violation of the establishment clause, because of the large number of parochial schools who would receive the government funds associated with the Chapter.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. This case builds on Agostini’s principal that state aid can be granted to parochial schools, provided it is not misused.
Aid normally may be thought to have a primary effect of advancing religion when it flows to an institution in which religion is so pervasive that a substantial portion of its functions are subsumed in the religious mission or when it funds a specifically religious activity in an otherwise substantially secular setting.View Full Point of Law
Issue. The issue in this case is whether the allotment of state aid to religious-based schools is necessarily a violation of the Establishment Clause, when those funds are ear marked for non-religious purposes.
Based on its holding in Agostini, the Supreme Court held that it is not facially unconstitutional to allot funds to religious schools, provided there is no indication that the funds will be used for a purpose other than that which is intended.
Dissent. Justice David Souter (J. Souter) dissented, holding to the underlying principal of the Establishment Clause, that any funding or appearance of funding a religious-based activity is facially unconstitutional.
Concurrence. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (J. O’Connor) concurred, noting that the Establishment Clause claims must fall because the Respondent has not prevented any evidence of misuse of funds.
Discussion. This case furthers the Supreme Court’s holding in Agostini, that it is overly burdensome to subject a private school to Establishment Clause criteria at the expense of the children.