473 U.S. 373 (1985), 83-990, School District of the City of Grand Rapids v. Ball

Docket Nº:No. 83-990
Citation:473 U.S. 373, 105 S.Ct. 3216, 87 L.Ed.2d 267, 53 U.S.L.W. 5006
Party Name:School District of the City of Grand Rapids v. Ball
Case Date:July 01, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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473 U.S. 373 (1985)

105 S.Ct. 3216, 87 L.Ed.2d 267, 53 U.S.L.W. 5006

School District of the City of Grand Rapids

v.

Ball

No. 83-990

United States Supreme Court

July 1, 1985

Argued December 5, 1984

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE

SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner School District adopted two programs -- Shared Time and Community Education -- that provide classes to nonpublic school students at public expense in classrooms located in and leased from the nonpublic schools. The Shared Time program offers classes during the regular schoolday that are intended to supplement the "core curriculum" courses required by the State. The Shared Time teachers are full-time employees of the public schools, but a "significant portion" of them had previously taught in nonpublic schools. The Community Education program offers classes at the conclusion of the regular schoolday in voluntary courses, some of which are not offered at the public schools but others of which are. Community Education teachers are part-time public school employees who for the most part are otherwise employed full-time by the same nonpublic school in which their Community Education classes are held. Of the 41 private schools involved in these programs, 40 are identifiably religious schools. The students attending both programs are the same students who otherwise attend the particular school in which the classes are held. Respondent taxpayers filed suit in Federal District Court against the School District and certain state officials, alleging that both programs violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. The court agreed, entered a judgment for respondents, and enjoined further operation of the programs. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The Shared Time and Community Education programs have the "primary or principal" effect of advancing religion, and therefore violate the dictates of the Establishment Clause. Pp. 381-398.

(a) Even the praiseworthy, secular purpose of providing for the education of schoolchildren cannot validate government aid to parochial schools when the aid has the effect of promoting a single religion or religion generally or when the aid unduly entangles the government in matters religious. Pp. 381-383.

(b) The challenged programs have the effect of impermissibly promoting religion in three ways. First, the state-paid teachers, influenced by the pervasively sectarian nature of the religious schools in which they

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work, may subtly or overtly indoctrinate the students in particular religious tenets at public expense. Second, the symbolic union of church and state inherent in the provision of secular state-provided public instruction in the religious school buildings threatens to convey a message of state support for religion to students and to the general public. Third, the programs in effect subsidize the religious functions of the parochial schools by taking over a substantial portion of their responsibility for teaching secular subjects. Pp. 384-398.

718 F.2d 1389, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., post, p. 398, and O'CONNOR, J., post, p. 398, filed opinions concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part. WHITE, J., post, p. 400, and REHNQUIST, J., post, p. 400, filed dissenting opinions.

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BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The School District of Grand Rapids, Michigan, adopted two programs in which classes for nonpublic school students are financed by the public school system, taught by teachers hired by the public school system, and conducted in "leased" classrooms in the nonpublic schools. Most of the nonpublic schools involved in the programs are sectarian religious schools. This case raises the question whether these programs impermissibly involve the government in the support of sectarian religious activities, and thus violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

I

A

At issue in this case are the Community Education and Shared Time programs offered in the nonpublic schools of Grand Rapids, Michigan. These programs, first instituted in the 1976-1977 school year, provide classes to nonpublic school students at public expense in classrooms located in and leased from the local nonpublic schools.

The Shared Time program offers classes during the regular schoolday that are intended to be supplementary to the "core curriculum" courses that the State of Michigan requires as a part of an accredited school program. Among the subjects offered are "remedial" and "enrichment" mathematics, "remedial" and "enrichment" reading, art, music, and physical education. A typical nonpublic school student attends these classes for one or two class periods per week; approximately "ten percent of any given nonpublic school student's time during the academic year would consist of Shared Time instruction." Americans United for Separation of Church and State v. School Dist. of Grand Rapids, 546 F.Supp. 1071, 1079 (WD Mich.1982). Although Shared Time itself is a program offered only in the nonpublic schools, there was testimony that the courses included in that program are offered, albeit perhaps in a somewhat different form, in the

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public schools as well. All of the classes that are the subject of this case are taught in elementary schools, with the exception of Math Topics, a remedial mathematics course taught in the secondary schools.1

The Shared Time teachers are full-time employees of the public schools, who often move from classroom to classroom during the course of the schoolday. A "significant portion" of the teachers (approximately 10%) "previously taught in nonpublic schools, and many of those had been assigned to the same nonpublic school where they were previously employed." Id. at 1078. The School District of Grand Rapids hires Shared Time teachers in accordance with its ordinary hiring procedures. Ibid. The public school system apparently provides all of the supplies, materials, and equipment used in connection with Shared Time instruction. See App. 341.

The Community Education program is offered throughout the Grand Rapids community in schools and on other sites, for children as well as adults. The classes at issue here are taught in the nonpublic elementary schools and commence at the conclusion of the regular schoolday. Among the courses offered are Arts and Crafts, Home Economics, Spanish, Gynmastics, Yearbook Production, Christmas Arts and Crafts, Drama, Newspaper, Humanities, Chess, Model

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Building, and Nature Appreciation. The District Court found that

[a]lthough certain Community Education courses offered at nonpublic school sites are not offered at the public schools on a Community Education basis, all Community Education programs are otherwise available at the public schools, usually as a part of their more extensive regular curriculum.

546 F.Supp. at 1079.

Community Education teachers are part-time public school employees. Community Education courses are completely voluntary, and are offered only if 12 or more students enroll. Because a well-known teacher is necessary to attract the requisite number of students, the School District accords a preference in hiring to instructors already teaching within the school. Thus,

virtually every Community Education course conducted on facilities leased from nonpublic schools has an instructor otherwise employed full time by the same nonpublic school.

Ibid. .

Both programs are administered similarly. The Director of the program, a public school employee, sends packets of course listings to the participating nonpublic schools before the school year begins. The nonpublic school administrators then decide which courses they want to offer. The Director works out an academic schedule for each school, taking into account, inter alia, the varying religious holidays celebrated by the schools of different denominations.

Nonpublic school administrators decide which classrooms will be used for the programs, and the Director then inspects the facilities and consults with Shared Time teachers to make sure the facilities are satisfactory. The public school system pays the nonpublic schools for the use of the necessary classroom space by entering into "leases" at the rate of $6 per classroom per week. The "leases," however, contain no mention of the particular room, space, or facility leased and teachers' rooms, libraries, lavatories, and similar facilities are made available at no additional charge. Id. at 1077.

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Each room used in the programs has to be free of any crucifix, religious symbol, or artifact, although such religious symbols can be present in the adjoining hallways, corridors, and other facilities used in connection with the program. During the time that a given classroom is being used in the programs, the teacher is required to post a sign stating that it is a "public school classroom."2 However, there are no signs posted outside the school buildings indicating that public school courses are conducted inside or that the facilities are being used as a public school annex.

Although petitioners label the Shared Time and Community Education students as "part-time public school students," the students attending Shared Time and Community Education courses in facilities leased from a nonpublic school are the same students who attend that particular school otherwise. Id. at 1078. There is no evidence that any public school student has ever attended a Shared Time or Community Education class in a nonpublic school. Id. at 1097. The District Court found that,

[t]hough Defendants claim the Shared Time program is available to all students, the record is abundantly clear that only nonpublic school...

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