Synod of Dakota v. State

Decision Date22 December 1891
PartiesSynod of Dakota v. State.
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court.

1. Section 3, art. 6, of the constitution of this state provides that "no money or property of the state shall be given or appropriated for the benefit of any sectarian or religious society or institution;" and section 16, art. 8 provides: "No appropriation of lands, money, or credits to aid any sectarian school shall ever be made by the state or any county or municipality within the state, *** and no sectarian instruction shall be allowed in any school or institution aided or supported by the state." Held, that these provisions of the constitution were intended to be and are self-executing, and require no act of the legislature to become operative, but of themselves control all legislation upon the subject of appropriating money or other property for "the benefit of" or "to aid" any sectarian school, society, or institution, and control and limit the powers of all state, county, and municipal officers in auditing or paying any such appropriation.

2. Held, further, that the prohibition in the constitution of the appropriation of any money or other property "to aid" any sectarian school applies to all appropriations to such schools, whether made as a donation or in payment for services rendered the state by such school.

3. The purpose for which the plaintiff corporation was organized and exists was and generally is to maintain and promulgate the doctrine and belief of the Christian religion of the sect known as "Presbyterians," and that it has offered and given secular and sectarian instruction to divers and numerous students in the Pierre University, under its control. Held, that such university, under the control of plaintiff, and in which a class of students was instructed in the methods of teaching for the state, and for the tuition of which the money sued for in this action is claimed, is a sectarian school, within the meaning of the term "sectarian school" as used in the state constitution.

4. By a law of 1887, prior to the adoption of the state constitution the territorial board of education was authorized to designate private universities, colleges, and academies in which instruction should be given to classes of pupils in such institutions in the methods of teaching, under such rules and regulations as the said board of education should prescribe; the tuition of which students should be paid by the territory. Held, that the law, so far as it authorized the designation of sectarian universities, colleges, or academies by said board of education in which such classes should be taught, was inconsistent with and repugnant to the provisions of the state constitution, and became inoperative and ceased to be of binding force or effect after the adoption of the state constitution, within the state.

5. A contract was made by said territorial board of education with the plaintiff in 1887 for the instruction of a class of students in the methods of teaching at the Pierre University providing that such contract should only be terminated by three months' notice by the said board of education. Held, that the board of education was not authorized by the law to make a contract for any definite term, and that the clause in the contract above referred to, fixing such limitation of time, did not survive the repeal of the law and was not, therefore, binding upon the state, and that such contract was not one protected by section 10, art. 1, Const. U.S. which provides that no state *** shall pass any law impairing the obligations of contracts.

6. The rules and regulations prescribed by the board of education for the universities, colleges, and academies designated by said board in which classes of students should be taught the methods of teaching provided that the course of instruction for such students should be as prescribed by the said board of education; that the principal and teachers of the normal department of the school so designated should be approved by such board; and that the students of the normal department should be excused, if they so desired, from any exercises where sectarian doctrines should be taught, or any comments made upon the Scriptures. Held that, notwithstanding these and other similar rules and regulations, as the teachers in such normal department in the Pierre University were selected, employed, and paid by the plaintiff, subject only to the approval of the board of education, and constituted a part of its faculty, and that the money claimed in this action, if paid, will go to the plaintiff, and not to the teachers directly, its payment to plaintiff would be "to aid" the plaintiff, and therefore comes within the prohibition of the constitution of this state.

Original action by the Synod of Dakota against the state of South Dakota to recover for the tuition and instruction of certain students.

Crawford & De Land, for plaintiff. Robert Dollard, Atty. Gen., for the State.


The plaintiff, in pursuance of the provisions of chapter 1, Laws 1890, commenced this action in this court to recover from the state the amount alleged to be due to it for the tuition and instruction of a class of students during the year 1890 at the Pierre University, located in the city of Pierre, under the control and management of the plaintiff, which said tuition and instruction was given to said class of students by virtue of an alleged contract made with said plaintiff by the board of education of the late territory of Dakota in 1887, in pursuance of the powers conferred upon said board of education by the provisions of sections 1840-1845, inclusive, Comp. Laws. An answer was filed on behalf of the state by the Hon. Robert Dollard, its attorney general, setting up as a defense, briefly stated, that the plaintiff was a sectarian corporation, and the Pierre University was a sectarian school, under the control and management of the plaintiff, and that, under the provisions of the constitution of the state, the state is prohibited from making any appropriation or paying any state funds for "the benefit of" or "to aid" any sectarian school. The case was presented to the court upon the complaint and answer and a stipulation as to the facts, which, so far as may be necessary to be stated, are, in substance, as follows: "First. That the plaintiff is a corporation organized and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the former territory of Dakota and of the present state of South Dakota, and that it has so existed as such corporation during all the times hereinafter mentioned, and that the purpose for which said corporation was organized and does so exist was and is generally to maintain and promulgate the doctrines and belief of the Christian religion, and of the sect known as 'Presbyterians.' Second. That during all of said times the said plaintiff has been, and is now, the owner and proprietor of certain grounds, buildings, furniture, books, and apparatus, and has had in its employ a faculty of divers professors and instructors, and with and through and by means of the same has maintained and conducted a certain educational institution in the city of Pierre, in Hughes county, in said state, under the name of 'Pierre University.' That during all of said time it has maintained and supported said institution, and provided the necessary funds to equip and conduct the same and pay the expenses thereof, and has offered and given secular and sectarian instruction to divers numerous students therein at regular rates of tuition. That the board of education of the said territory of Dakota, in the year 1887, in pursuance of section 1841, Comp. Laws, designated the said Pierre University as one of the educational institutions in which a class of students should be taught the methods and practice of teaching in the common schools. That plaintiff duly accepted said designation and appointment, and agreed to and did comply with all the provisions of the law and the rules and regulations adopted and promulgated by said board of education. That it received into its said institution during the winter and spring of 1890 a designated number of students, to be, and which were, instructed as required by the board of education, in accordance with the terms of said agreement. That the account for the tuition and instruction of said class of students was duly presented to the state auditor for allowance, and that he refused to audit or allow the same; and that the sum claimed by the plaintiff is the proper amount to be paid, in case the state is authorized to pay the same."

The territorial act referred to as sections 1840-1845, provides in substance, that the territorial board of education shall designate private universities, colleges, and academies in which instruction shall be given to classes of not less than 10 nor more than 25, whose tuition shall be paid by the territorial treasurer; that the board shall prescribe the conditions of admission to the class, the course of instruction, and the rules and regulations under which instruction shall be given; that the board shall establish in the institutions designated, subject to their visitation, examinations in such branches of study as are taught, and shall determine the rules and regulations in accordance with which the same shall be conducted, and shall confer such honorary certificates or diplomas as they may deem expedient upon those pupils who satisfactorily pass such examination. Such examinations shall be prescribed in such studies, and shall be arranged and conducted in such manner, as in the judgment of the board shall furnish a suitable preparation for teachers' work in the common schools, prominent among which shall be method of teaching and practice. ...

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