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Supreme Court Sets Standard in Establishment Clause Suits

The United States Supreme Court held that state statutes from Rhode Island
and Pennsylvania, which supplemented teacher's salaries in religious
schools, violated the religious establishment clause of the First
Amendment. A federal district court found that Rhode Island's provision,
which provided a 15% salary supplement to be paid to teachers to teach
secular subjects in parochial schools, violated the First Amendment. See:
Earley v. Dicenso, 316 F.Supp. 112 (D RI 1970). Another district court
found Pennsylvania's provision, which directly reimbursed parochial schools
for teacher's salaries to teach secular subjects, failed to state a cause
of action and dismissed the case. See: Lemon v. Kurtzman, 310 F.Supp. 35 (D
PA 1970).

The Supreme Court held that every analysis to determine an Establishment
Clause violation must apply three tests. "First, the statute must have a
secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must
be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute
must not foster 'an excessive government entanglement with religion.'"
The Court found that the statutes at issue had no intent to advance
religion but to help maintain minimum standards in the state's schools. The
Court did not rule upon the second test because it found the statutes
involved "excessive entanglement between government and religion," for the
state could not say that the parochial school teachers were not
indoctrinating children with religious faith and morals while teaching the
secular subjects.

Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment in the Rhode Island case and
reversed the dismissal of the Pennsylvania case. See: Lemon v. Kurtzman,
403 U.S. 602, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 29 LE.2d 745 (1971).

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