Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lemon v. Kurtzman case brief

Lemon v. Kurtzman case brief summary
403 U.S. 602 (1971)

In a consolidated case from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and from the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, appellant citizens and taxpayers challenged state statutes that provided aid to church-related elementary and secondary schools as violative of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 24, §§ 5601 - 5609 (Supp. 1971) provided financial support to nonpublic elementary and secondary schools by reimbursing the cost of teachers' salaries, textbooks, and instructional materials in specified secular subjects. Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws Ann. § 16-51-1 et seq. (Supp. 1970), the state paid directly to teachers in nonpublic elementary schools a supplement of 15 percent of their annual salary. Under each statute, state aid had been given to church-related educational institutions. The court held that both statutes were unconstitutional, affirming the Rhode Island District Court's conclusion that the Act fostered excessive entanglement between government and religion, as evident in the way the program required the government to examine a school's records to determine how much of the total expenditures was attributable to secular education and how much to religious activity.

The court reversed the Pennsylvania District Court order that dismissed appellant taxpayers' complaint under a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion, finding that the Pennsylvania statute had the facial defect of providing state financial aid directly to church-related schools.


The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Rhode Island District Court, and reversed and remanded the judgment of the Pennsylvania District Court.

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