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Lemon v. Kurtzman

Lemon v. Kurtzman 403 US 602 (1971)

Upheld a Federal panel that found that Rhode Island's 1969 Salary Supplement
Act providing for a 15% teacher salary supplement, was unconstitutional
because, in practice, only Catholic School teachers would receive the funds.
The Court decision established the Lemon test, which details requirements
for US legislation concerning religion.

The act stipulated that "eligible teachers must teach only courses offered
in the public schools, using only materials used in the public schools, and
must agree not to teach courses in religion." Still, a three-judge panel
found 25% of the State's elementary students attended nonpublic schools,
about 95% of the these attended Roman Catholic schools, and the sole
beneficiaries under the act were 250 teachers at Roman Catholic schools.

From the High Court opinion:

     "The court found that the parochial school system was "an integral part
     of the religious mission of the Catholic Church," and held that the Act
     fostered "excessive entanglement" between government and religion, thus
     violating the Establishment Clause."

The Decision

     "Held: Both statutes are unconstitutional under the Religion Clauses of
     the First Amendment, as the cumulative impact of the entire
     relationship arising under the statutes involves excessive entanglement
     between government and religion."

The Court's decision established the Lemon test, which details the
requirements for United States legislation concerning religion. It consists
of three prongs:

   * (1) The government's action must not promote a particular religion or
     religious view;
   * (2) The government's action must not have the primary effect of either
     advancing or inhibiting religion; and
   * (3) The government's action must not result in an "excessive
     entanglement" of the government and religion.

If any of these three prongs is violated, the government's action is deemed
unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to
the United States Constitution.
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