Sunday, December 8, 2013

Roemer v. Board of Public Works of Maryland case brief

Roemer v. Board of Public Works of Maryland case brief summary
426 U.S. 736 (1976)

Appellant taxpayers challenged a judgment from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, which declared constitutional a state statute providing for annual grants to private colleges, including appellee religiously affiliated colleges, subject to a restriction that funds not be used for sectarian purposes as defined by appellee Maryland Council for Higher Education pursuant to Md. Ann. Code art. 77A, § 65 et seq. (1975).

In considering appellant taxpayers' complaint, the district court found that appellee Maryland Council for Higher Education (Council) used a screening process to insure compliance by appellee church-affiliated colleges (colleges) with the grants' restrictions: first, were appellee colleges ineligible because they primarily awarded theological or seminary degrees and second, would the funds only be used for nonsectarian purposes. Appellee Council told the district court that it required itemized reports from appellee colleges and that each had a separate account for state funds.

The district court ruled that the statute was constitutional based on the Lemon test and refused to order any funds repaid. The district court found institutional autonomy, no requirement to attend religious exercises, no religious pressures within courses, and hiring and student admission decisions made independently of religion. The district court did not find excessive entanglement in the annual nature of the subsidy.

The court held that the district court's finding that appellee colleges separated secular and religious functions was neither misplaced nor erroneous, and the judgment was affirmed.

The court affirmed the judgment of the district court because it did not find a violation of theEstablishment Clause by appellees, Maryland Council for Higher Education and church-affiliated colleges, as appellant taxpayers had charged. Secular and religious functions were effectively separated. The district court's findings were not clearly erroneous.

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