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Lemon v. Kurtzman

Lemon v. Kurtzman 403 US 602 (1971)

Upheld a Federal panel that found that Rhode Island's 1969 Salary Supplement Act providing for a 15% teacher salary supplement, was unconstitutional because, in practice, only Catholic School teachers would receive the funds. The Court decision established the Lemon test, which details requirements for US legislation concerning religion.

The act stipulated that "eligible teachers must teach only courses offered in the public schools, using only materials used in the public schools, and must agree not to teach courses in religion." Still, a three-judge panel found 25% of the State's elementary students attended nonpublic schools, about 95% of the these attended Roman Catholic schools[?], and the sole beneficiaries under the act were 250 teachers at Roman Catholic schools.

From the High Court opinion:

"The court found that the parochial school system was "an integral part of the religious mission of the Catholic Church," and held that the Act fostered "excessive entanglement" between government and religion, thus violating the Establishment Clause."

The Decision

"Held: Both statutes are unconstitutional under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, as the cumulative impact of the entire relationship arising under the statutes involves excessive entanglement between government and religion."

The Court's decision established the Lemon test, which details the requirements for United States legislation concerning religion. It consists of three prongs:

  • (1) The government's action must not promote a particular religion or religious view;
  • (2) The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and
  • (3) The government's action must not result in an "excessive entanglement" of the government and religion.

If any of these three prongs is violated, the government's action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause[?] of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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