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Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township

330 U.S. 1 (1947)


Facts of the Case:

A New Jersey school district had passed a plan allowing the reimbursement of schools for the transportation of students to private schools. The district was acting under a statute that allowed schools to regulate the transportation of students. A state court had ruled the plan unconstitutional, but the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals reversed the decision.

Decision:

The Court voted 5-4 in favor of upholding the New Jersey plan.

Majority Opinion: (Justice Black)

Paying for the busing of parochial school students does not breach the Establishment Clause. Even though the assistance might make parents more likely to send their children to such schools, the authorization does not unduly assist the schools. The policy is general because it applies to public and private school students and does not single out those attending religious schools. The funding of busing is similar to the public payment of policemen and firemen who protect parochial school students.

Dissenting Opinion: (Justice Rutledge:)

The plan supports religious training and belief through the use of government funds.  The funds for the plan are taken from taxes levied on citizens of all faiths and should not be used to further the religious education of children of other faiths, thereby violating the Establishment Clause.  If it is permissible to pay for the transportation to private religious school on the grounds it promotes education, then why not pay for the entire costs of the schooling on these same grounds?

Significance:

Using the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court applied the Establishment Clause to the states. However, it was not violated so long as money was not given directly to religious schools or gave them specific benefits.

 

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Last modified: 02/15/01