Board of Education v. Allen
Annotate this Case
392 U.S. 236 (1968)
U.S. Supreme Court
Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236 (1968)
Board of Education v. Allen
Argued April 22, 1968
Decided June 10, 1968
392 U.S. 236
New York's Education Law requires local public school authorities to lend textbooks free of charge to all students in grades seven to 12, including those in private schools. Appellant school boards sought a declaration that the statutory requirement was invalid as violative of the State and Federal Constitutions, an order barring appellee Commissioner of Education from removing appellants' members from office for failing to comply with it, and an order preventing the use of state funds for the purchase of textbooks to be lent to parochial students. The trial court held the law unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and entered summary judgment for appellants on the pleadings; the Appellate Division reversed and ordered the complaint dismissed since appellant school boards had no standing to attack the statute, and the New York Court of Appeals held that appellants did have standing, but that the statute did not violate the State or Federal Constitution. The Court of Appeals said that the law was to benefit all school children, without regard to the type of school attended, that only textbooks approved by school authorities could be loaned, and therefore the statute was "completely neutral with respect to religion."
Held: The statute does not violate the Establishment or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Pp. 392 U. S. 241-249.
(1) The express purpose of the statute was the furtherance of educational opportunities for the young, and the law merely makes available to all children the benefits of a general program to lend school books free of charge, and the financial benefit is to parents and children, not to schools. Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U. S. 1. Pp. 392 U. S. 243-244.
(2) There is no evidence that religious books have been loaned, and it cannot be assumed that school authorities are unable to distinguish between secular and religious books, or that they will not honestly discharge their duties to approve only secular books. Pp. 392 U. S. 244-245.
(3) Parochial schools, in addition to their sectarian function, perform the task of secular education, and, on the basis of this meager record, the Court cannot agree with appellants that all teaching in a sectarian school is religious, or that the intertwining of secular and religious training is such that secular textbooks furnished to students are, in fact, instrumental in teaching religion. Pp. 392 U. S. 245-248.
(4) In the absence of specific evidence, and based solely on judicial notice, it cannot be concluded that the statute results in unconstitutional state involvement with religious instruction or violates the Establishment Clause. P. 392 U. S. 248.
(5) Since appellants have not shown that the law coerces them in any way in the practice of religion, there is no violation of the Free Exercise Clause. Pp. 392 U. S. 248-249.
20 N.Y.2d 109, 228 N.E.2d 791, affirmed.
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