These three cases from Pennsylvania and Rhode Island involved public assistance to private schools, some of which were religious. Pennsylvania's law included paying the salaries of teachers in parochial schools, assisting the purchasing of textbooks, and other teaching supplies. In Rhode Island, the State paid 15% of the salaries of private school teachers. A federal court upheld the Pennsylvania law while a District Court ruled that the Rhode Island law fostered 'excessive entanglement'.
The Court unanimously (8-0) determined that the assistance was unconstitutional.
|Majority Opinion: (Justice Burger)|
There are three criteria that should be used to assess legislation: "First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances or inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster and excessive government Entanglement with religion." The two statutes in question violate the third of these criteria. The teachers whose salaries are being partially paid by the State are religious agents who work under the control of religious officials. There is an inherent conflict in this situation of which the state should remain clear. To ensure that teachers play a non-ideological role would require the state to become entangled with the church. Allowing this relationship could lead to political problems in areas in which a large number of students attend religious schools.
Instituted the Lemon test for analyzing statutes relating to church-state interaction.
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