Agostini v. Felton
Annotate this Case
521 U.S. 203 (1997)
OCTOBER TERM, 1996
AGOSTINI ET AL. v. FELTON ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
No. 96-552. Argued April 15, 1997-Decided June 23,1997*
In Aguilar v. Felton, 473 U. S. 402, 413, this Court held that New York City's program that sent public school teachers into parochial schools to provide remedial education to disadvantaged children pursuant to Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 necessitated an excessive entanglement of church and state and violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. On remand, the District Court entered a permanent injunction reflecting that ruling. Some 10 years later, petitioners-the parties bound by the injunction-filed motions in the same court seeking relief from the injunction's operation under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5). They emphasized the significant costs of complying with Aguilar and the assertions of five Justices in Board of Ed. of Kiryas Joel Village School Dist. v. Grumet, 512 U. S. 687, that Aguilar should be reconsidered, and argued that relief was proper under Rule 60(b)(5) and Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail, 502 U. S. 367, 388, because Aguilar cannot be squared with this Court's intervening Establishment Clause jurisprudence and is no longer good law. The District Court denied the motion on the merits, declaring that Aguilar's demise has "not yet occurred." The Second Circuit agreed and affirmed.
1. A federally funded program providing supplemental, remedial instruction to disadvantaged children on a neutral basis is not invalid under the Establishment Clause when such instruction is given on the premises of sectarian schools by government employees under a program containing safeguards such as those present in New York City's Title I program. Accordingly, Aguilar, as well as that portion of its companion case, School Dist. of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U. S. 373, addressing a "Shared Time" program, are no longer good law. Pp. 215-236.
(a) Under Rufo, supra, at 384, Rule 60(b)(5)-which states that, "upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party ... from a final judgment ... [when] it is no longer equitable that the judgment
*Together with No. 96-553, Chancellor, Board of Education of the City of New York, et al. v. Felton et al., also on certiorari to the same court.
should have prospective application"-authorizes relief from an injunction if the moving party shows a significant change either in factual conditions or in law. Since the exorbitant costs of complying with the injunction were known at the time Aguilar was decided, see, e. g., 473 U. S., at 430-431 (O'CONNOR, J., dissenting), they do not constitute a change in factual conditions sufficient to warrant relief, accord, Rufo, supra, at 385. Also unavailing is the fact that five Justices in Kiryas Joel expressed the view that Aguilar should be reconsidered or overruled. Because the question of Aguilar's propriety was not before the Court in that case, those Justices' views cannot be said to have effected a change in Establishment Clause law. Thus, petitioners' ability to satisfy Rule 60(b)(5)'s prerequisites hinges on whether the Court's later Establishment Clause cases have so undermined Aguilar that it is no longer good law. Pp. 215-218.
(b) To answer that question, it is necessary to understand the rationale upon which Aguilar and Ball rested. One of the programs evaluated in Ball was the Grand Rapids, Michigan, Shared Time program, which is analogous to New York City's Title I program. Applying the three-part Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, 612-613, test, the Ball Court acknowledged that the Shared Time program satisfied the test's first element in that it served a purely secular purpose, 473 U. S., at 383, but ultimately concluded that it had the impermissible effect of advancing religion, in violation of the test's second element, id., at 385. That conclusion rested on three assumptions: (i) any public employee who works on a religious school's premises is presumed to inculcate religion in her work, see id., at 385-389; (ii) the presence of public employees on private school premises creates an impermissible symbolic union between church and state, see id., at 389, 391; and (iii) any public aid that directly aids the educational function of religious schools impermissibly finances religious indoctrination, even if the aid reaches such schools as a consequence of private decisionmaking, see id., at 385, 393, 395-397. Additionally, Aguilar set forth a fourth assumption: that New York City's Title I program necessitates an excessive government entanglement with religion, in violation of the Lemon test's third element, because public employees who teach on religious school premises must be closely monitored to ensure that they do not inculcate religion. See 473 U. S., at 409, 412-414. Pp. 218-222.
(c) The Court's more recent cases have undermined the assumptions upon which Ball and Aguilar relied. Contrary to Aguilar's conclusion, placing full-time government employees on parochial school campuses does not as a matter of law have the impermissible effect of advancing religion through indoctrination. Subsequent cases have modified in two significant respects the approach the Court uses to as-
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