Highlights of U.S. Supreme Court Opinions

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From Aguilar et al. v. Felton, 1985:

At best, the supervision in this case would assist in preventing the Title I program from being used, intentionally or unwittingly, to inculcate the religious beliefs of the surrounding parochial school. But appellants' argument fails in any event because the supervisory system established by the city of New York inevitably results in the excessive entanglement of church and state, an Establishment Clause concern distinct from that addressed by the effects doctrine. Even where state aid to parochial institutions does not have the primary effect of advancing religion, the provision of such aid may nonetheless violate the Establishment Clause owing to the nature of the interaction of church and state in the administration of that aid.

--William J. Brennan Jr.

From Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 1994:

A district created under a generally applicable scheme would be acceptable even though it coincides with a village which was consciously created by its voters as an enclave for their religious group. I do not think the court's opinion holds the contrary. I also think there is one other accommodation that would be entirely permissible: the 1984 scheme, which was discontinued because of our decision in Aguilar. ... It is the court's insistence on disfavoring religion in Aguilar that led New York to favor it here. The court should, in a proper case, be prepared to reconsider Aguilar, in order to bring our Establishment Clause jurisprudence back to what I think is the proper track--government impartiality, not animosity, toward religion.

--Sandra Day O'Connor, concurring

Before 1985, the handicapped Satmar children of Kiryas Joel attended the private religious schools within the village ... Because their handicaps were in some cases acute, the state of New York provided public funds for special education of these children at annexes to the religious schools. Then came the companion cases of School District of Grand Rapids v. Ball and Aguilar v. Felton. In Grand Rapids, the court invalidated a program in which public school teachers would offer supplemental classes at private schools .... And in Aguilar, the court invalidated New York City's use of Title I funding to pay the salaries of public school teachers who taught educationally deprived children of low-income families at parochial schools in the city.

The decisions in Grand Rapids and Aguilar may have been erroneous. In light of the case before us, and in the interest of sound elaboration of constitutional doctrine, it may be necessary for us to reconsider them at a later date.

--Anthony M. Kennedy, concurring

I heartily agree that [Grand Rapids and Aguilar], so hostile to our national tradition of accommodation, should be overruled at the earliest opportunity...

--Antonin Scalia, dissenting, joined by William H. Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas

Vol. 15, Issue 23

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