Parochial Schools and the Court

By Kaminer, Wendy | The American Prospect, January 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Parochial Schools and the Court


Kaminer, Wendy, The American Prospect


Although it is frequently attacked as an elitist institution with no regard for the public will, the Supreme Court is hardly immune to cultural and political trends. Justices are, after all, appointed by presidents with particular ideological agendas, shaped partly by polls. Once they ascend to the bench, a few appointees may surprise and disappoint their political patrons, but many do not. So, at least indirectly, the political preferences of voters wield considerable influence on the Court. It was no coincidence that the Supreme Court toyed with invalidating capital punishment in the early 1970s, when public support for it was relatively low; it's not surprising that as support for the death penalty has increased (along with the conservative hold on government), the Court has committed itself to expediting executions. It's worth noting that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision invalidating abortion prohibitions, which anti-abortion activists consider the epitome of judicial arrogance, actually coincided with growing public support for abortion rights.

The current wave of religious revivalism is likely to exert similar influence on the Court. In fact, a slim majority of the justices have already demonstrated their sympathy for state-funded religious activities. In the 1995 case of Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (decided by a five-to-four vote), the Court held that a public university was required to fund an evangelical student newspaper, as it funded other, secular student activities. In 1997 it ruled in Agostini v. Felton (another five-to-four decision) that federal tax dollars may be used to pay teachers who conduct remedial classes in parochial schools as well as those in public schools. Agostini directly overruled a 1985 (five-to-four) case, Aguilar v. Felton.

Do the decisions in Rosenberger and Agostini effectively endorse government support of sectarian activities, in violation of the First Amendment, or do they prevent government discrimination against religion? That is the question dividing the Court. In Rosenberger, the majority held that a denial of university support for a sectarian student newspaper would constitute "viewpoint discrimination." The dissent pointed out that the newspaper was not a vehicle for discussing different viewpoints about religious issues; it was engaged in religious proselytizing, which a state university may not sponsor. In Agostini, the majority observed that the federal program at issue disbursed funds to public agencies providing services to all children in need, regardless of where they attended school. The dissent stressed that federal funds were being used to teach such basic subjects as math and reading in parochial schools, which effectively subsidized religious education.

A quick review of the most important decisions involving government support of private parochial schools demonstrates the Court's difficulty in deciding when state aid simply provides standard, secular services to students in religious schools (like bus transportation) and when it substantially enhances a school's ability to provide religious education or threatens to entangle government in parochial school administration.

Long ago, in the 1930 Louisiana case Cochran v. Louisiana State Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that states may loan textbooks to religious schools, and in a 1947 case, Everson v. Board of Education, the Court upheld a program reimbursing parents for the costs of busing their kids to parochial schools. In 1993, the Court held in Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District that federal funds could be used to provide sign language interpreters to deaf students in parochial schools.

The legal principle governing cases involving state support of secular activities in private religious schools (and religious activities in public schools) was formulated in the landmark 1971 case Lemon v. Kurtzman. Lemon involved challenges to two state laws: a Rhode Island law supplementing the salaries of teachers in parochial schools, who taught secular subjects, relying on material used in public schools, and a Pennsylvania law reimbursing parochial schools for teachers' salaries, textbooks, and "other instructional material," used for secular educational purposes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Parochial Schools and the Court
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.