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Roemer v. Board of Public Works

    Brief Fact Summary. The Appellants, Roemer and three other Maryland taxpayers (Appellants), brought suit seeking a declaration of a State statute’s invalidity under the Establishment Clause because it seeks to grant funds to private colleges, some of which are religiously affiliated.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. This case follows in the line of Agostini and Mitchell. The Establishment Clause will not invalidate a statute, which seeks to allocate funds to religious educational institutions, provided there is no evidence of misuse of the funds.

    Facts. The Appellants and three other Maryland taxpayers brought suit seeking a declaration of a State statute’s invalidity under the Establishment Clause because it seeks to grant funds to private colleges, some of which are religiously affiliated. The District Court refused Petitioners’ injunction and appeal was taken directly to the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court), which granted certiorari.

    Issue. This case considers whether funds, ear-marked as grants for institutions of higher education, must necessarily be withheld from institutions that are religiously affiliated.

    Held. Affirmed.
    In agreeing with the District Court, the Supreme Court gave deference to its findings that funds will not necessarily become entangled merely by presentment to religiously-affiliated institutions.

    Dissent. Justice William Brennan (J. Brennan) dissented because the funds were not ear- marked at payment and he felt the interests of government and religion could easily become blurred in such a situation. Conversely, Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) dissented because the funds could also serve as a deterrent on the goals of the religious institution.
    Concurrence. Justice Byron White (J. White) concurred, alleging that the mere fact that financing was for a separable secular function, justified appropriate use of the funds.

    Discussion. This case again stands for the proposition that funds should not be withheld from an educational institution when it is religiously-affiliated, unless it can be proven that the funds would be used for religious purposes.


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