In 1989, the New York legislature drew boundaries for a school district in accordance with the village of Kiryas Joel. The area was overwhelmingly occupied by people who practiced Satmar Hasidim, a strict form of Judaism. A group of taxpayers sued claiming that the school district had limited access.
In a 6-3 decision, the Court determined that the boundary was unconstitutionally drawn to include only those people who lived in the area occupied by the members of the strict Jewish group.
|Majority Opinion: (Justice Souter)|
The uniqueness of this case prevents the Court from determining whether the Jewish group are merely the beneficiaries of a neutral decision available to other groups. The boundaries drawn by the legislature violate the Establishment Clause. The decision creates a "fusion" of government and religious objectives. "That individuals who happen to be religious may hold public office does not mean that a state may deliberately delegate discretionary power to an individual, institution, or community on the ground of religious identity." The area's religious make-up was the defining element in the decision of where the boundaries should be drawn. As a result, the boundary was not drawn in a neutral manner and the State is using its resources to assist the practitioners of the Satmar faith.
The Court prevented governments from using the religious affiliation of a group of people as a central consideration in reaching decisions. Doing so violates the neutrality requirement to which the government must abide.
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