Three Pennsylvania statutes were challenged for allegedly violating the Establishment
Clause. First, textbooks appropriate for secular schools could be purchased for
students in private schools. Also, the state offered remedial help for non-public
school students. This took the form of speech and hearing therapy or a variety of
psychological services. Finally, schools were provided instructional materials
including projectors, recorders, and laboratory paraphernalia.
The Court permitted Pennsylvania to purchase textbooks for non-public school students, but
did not allow for the purchase of instructional materials or the supplication of special
Majority Opinion: (Justice Stewart)|
The textbook loan program is permissible just as a similar one was allowed in Allen. Only
those books that can be used in secular classes may be purchased with the money. The
loaning of instructional material to private schools is unconstitutional because it
directly aids religion. The materials could easily be used by the schools as part of
their religious education. Likewise, the supplying of staff to assist students with
special needs in religious schools improperly benefits religion. In order for the State
to ensure that these employees teach only secular ideologies, the government would have
to become excessively entangled with the religious schools. Even if the fostering of
religious ideas is unintentional, it still is in violation of the Establishment Clause.
“The fact that the teachers and counselors providing auxiliary services are employees of
the public intermediate unit, rather than of the church-related schools in which they
work, does not substantially eliminate the need for continuing surveillance…but they are
performing important educational services in schools in which education is an integral
part of the dominant sectarian mission and in which an atmosphere dedicated to the
advancement of religious belief is constantly maintained.”
The first part of this decision is consistent with past cases in allowing secular
textbooks to be provided for non-public school students. The other two parts are not
permitted because the religious education might benefit. When this potential exists, it
is inappropriate to ask the State to ensure that the goods supplied are used only for
secular education because enforcement would lead to entanglement.
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