Mueller v. Allen
Annotate this Case
463 U.S. 388 (1983)
U.S. Supreme Court
Mueller v. Allen, 463 U.S. 388 (1983)
Mueller v. Allen
Argued April 18, 1983
Decided June 29, 1983
463 U.S. 388
A Minnesota statute (§ 290.09, subd. 22) allows state taxpayers, in computing their state income tax, to deduct expenses incurred in providing "tuition, textbooks and transportation" for their children attending an elementary or secondary school. Petitioner Minnesota taxpayers brought suit in Federal District Court against respondent Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue and respondent parents who had taken the tax deduction for expenses incurred in sending their children to parochial schools, claiming that § 290.09, subd. 22, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by providing financial assistance to sectarian institutions. The District Court granted summary judgment for respondents, holding that the statute is neutral on its face and in its application and does not have a primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: Section 290.09, subd. 22, does not violate the Establishment Clause, but satisfies all elements of the "three-part" test laid down in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, that must be met for such a statute to be upheld under the Clause. Pp. 463 U. S. 392-403.
(a) The tax deduction in question has the secular purpose of ensuring that the State's citizenry is well educated, as well as of assuring the continued financial health of private schools, both sectarian and nonsectarian. Pp. 463 U. S. 394-395.
(b) The deduction does not have the primary effect of advancing the sectarian aims of nonpublic schools. It is only one of many deductions -- such as those for medical expenses and charitable contributions -- available under the Minnesota tax laws; is available for educational expenses incurred by all parents, whether their children attend public schools or private sectarian or nonsectarian private schools, Committee for Public Education v. Nyquist, 413 U. S. 756, distinguished; and provides aid to parochial schools only as a result of decisions of individual parents, rather than directly from the State to the schools themselves. The Establishment Clause's historic purposes do not encompass the sort of attenuated financial benefit that eventually flows to parochial schools from the neutrally available tax benefit at issue. The fact that, notwithstanding § 290.09, subd. 22's facial neutrality, a particular annual statistical analysis shows that the statute's application primarily benefits religious institutions
does not provide the certainty needed to determine the statute's constitutionality. Moreover, private schools, and parents paying for their children to attend these schools, make special contributions to the areas in which the schools operate. Pp. 463 U. S. 396-402.
(c) Section 290.09, subd. 22, does not "excessively entangle" the State in religion. The fact that state officials must determine whether particular textbooks qualify for the tax deduction and must disallow deductions for textbooks used in teaching religious doctrines is an insufficient basis for finding such entanglement. P. 463 U. S. 403.
676 F.2d 1195, affirmed.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined post, p. 463 U. S. 404.
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