Meek v. Pittenger
Annotate this Case
421 U.S. 349 (1975)
U.S. Supreme Court
Meek v. Pittenger, 421 U.S. 349 (1975)
Meek v. Pittenger
Argued February 19, 1976
Decided May 19, 1975
421 U.S. 349
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is authorized to provide directly to all children enrolled in nonpublic elementary and secondary schools meeting Pennsylvania's compulsory attendance requirements "auxiliary services" (Act 194) and loans of textbook "acceptable for use in" the public schools (Act 195). Act 195 also provides for loans directly to the nonpublic schools of "instructional materials and equipment, useful to the education" of nonpublic school children. The auxiliary services include counseling, testing, psychological services, speech and hearing therapy, and related services for exceptional, remedial, or educationally disadvantaged students, "and such other secular, neutral, non-ideological service as are of benefit to nonpublic school children" and are provided for those in public schools. The instructional materials include periodicals, photographs, maps, charts, recordings, and films. The instructional equipment includes projectors, recorders, and laboratory paraphernalia. Appellants brought this suit in the District Court challenging the constitutionality of both Acts. The court upheld the constitutionality of the textbook and instructional materials loan programs and the auxiliary services program, but invalidated the instructional equipment loan program to the extent that it sanctioned the loan of equipment "which, from its nature, can be diverted to religious purposes."
Held: Act 194 and all but the textbook loan provisions of Act 195 violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth. Pp. 421 U. S. 359-372; 421 U. S. 388.
374 F.Supp. 39, affirmed in part, reversed in part.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, IV, and V, finding:
1. The direct loan of instructional materials and equipment to nonpublic schools authorized by Act 195 has the unconstitutional primary effect of establishing religion because of the predominantly
religious character of the schools benefiting from the Act, since 75% of Pennsylvania's nonpublic schools that comply with the compulsory attendance law, and thus qualify for aid under Act 195 are church-related or religiously affiliated. The massive aid that nonpublic schools thus receive is neither indirect nor incidental, and, even though such aid is ostensibly limited to secular instructional material and equipment, the inescapable result is the direct and substantial advancement of religious activity. Pp. 421 U. S. 362-366.
2.Act 194 also violates the Establishment Clause because the auxiliary services are provided at predominantly church-related schools. The District Court erred in holding that such services are permissible because they are only secular, neutral, and nonideological, since excessive entanglement would be required for Pennsylvania to be assured that the public school professional staff members who provide the services do not advance the religious mission of the church-related schools in which they serve. Cf. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, 403 U. S. 618. Pp. 421 U. S. 367-372.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, joined by MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN and MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concluded in Part III that Act 195's textbook loan provisions, which are limited to textbooks acceptable for use in the public schools, are constitutional, since they "merely [make] available to all children the benefits of a general program to lend schools books free of charge," and the "financial benefit is to parents and children, not to schools," Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U. S. 236, 392 U. S. 243-244. Pp. 421 U. S. 359-362.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, joined by MR. JUSTICE WHITE, concluded that the textbook loan program of Act 195 is constitutionally indistinguishable from the program upheld in Board of Education v. Allen, supra. P. 421 U. S. 388.
STEWART, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion of the Court, in which BLACKMUN and POWELL, JJ., joined, and in all but Part III of which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 421 U. S. 373. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 421 U. S. 385. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which WHITE, J., joined, post p. 421 U. S. 387.