Johnson v. Robison
415 U.S. 361 (1974)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361 (1974)

Johnson v. Robison

No. 72-1297

Argued December 11, 1973

Decided March 4, 1974

415 U.S. 361

Syllabus

Appellee, who had been exempted from military service as a Class I-O conscientious objector but who performed required alternative civilian service, after being denied educational benefits under the Veterans' Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966, brought this class action for a declaratory judgment that the provisions of the Act making him and his class ineligible for such benefits violated the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom and the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws. After denying appellants' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction because of 38 U.S.C. § 211(a), which prohibits judicial review of decisions of the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs on any question of law or fact under laws administered by the Veterans' Administration providing for veterans' benefits, the District Court rejected appellee's First Amendment claim but sustained the Fifth Amendment claim.

Held:

1. Section 211(a) does not extend to actions challenging the constitutionality of veterans' benefits legislation, but is aimed at prohibiting review only of those decisions of law or fact arising in the administration of a statute providing for veterans' benefits, and hence is inapplicable to this action, neither the text of the statute nor its legislative history showing a contrary intent. Pp. 415 U. S. 366-374

2. The challenged sections of the Act do not create an arbitrary classification in violation of appellee's right to equal protection of the laws. Pp. 415 U. S. 374-383.

(a) The quantitative and qualitative distinctions between the disruption caused by military service and that caused by alternative civilian service -- military service involving a six-year commitment and far greater loss of personal freedom, and alternative civilian service involving only a two-year obligation and no requirement to leave civilian life -- form a rational basis for Congress' classification limiting educational benefits to military service veterans

Page 415 U. S. 362

as a means of helping them to readjust to civilian life. Pp. 415 U. S. 378-382.

(b) The statutory classification also bears a rational relationship to the Act's objective of making military service more attractive. P. 415 U. S. 382.

3. The Act does not violate appellee's right of free exercise of religion. Gillette v. United States,401 U. S. 437. Pp. 415 U. S. 383-386.

(a) The withholding of educational benefits to appellee and his class involves only an incidental burden, if any burden at all, upon their free exercise of religion. P. 415 U. S. 385.

(b) Appellee and his class were not included as beneficiaries not because of any legislative design to interfere with their free exercise of religion, but because to include them would not rationally promote the Act's purposes. P. 415 U. S. 385.

(c) The Government's substantial interest in raising and supporting armies, Art. I, § 8, is of "a kind and weight" clearly sufficient to sustain the challenged legislation. Pp. 415 U. S. 385-386.

352 F.Supp. 848, reversed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, .MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 415 U. S. 386.

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