Tilton v. Richardson

Citation91 S.Ct. 2091,29 L.Ed.2d 790,403 U.S. 672
Decision Date28 June 1971
Docket NumberNo. 153,153
PartiesEleanor Taft TILTON et al., Appellants, v. Elliott L. RICHARDSON, Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, et al
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

See 92 S.Ct. 25.

Syllabus

The Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963 provides federal construction grants for college and university facilities, excluding 'any facility used or to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place for religious worship, or * * * primarily in connection with any part of the program of a school or department of divinity.' The United States retains a 20-year interest in any facility constructed with funds under the Act, and if, during this period, the recipient violates the statutory conditions, the Government is entitled to recovery of funds. Four church-related colleges and universities in Connecticut received federal construction grants for five facilities. Appellants attempted to show, in a three-judge court, that the recipient institutions were 'sectarian' by introducing evidence of their relations with religious authorities, the curricula content, and other indicia of religious character. Appellee colleges introduced testimony that they had fully complied with the statutory conditions and that their religious affiliations did not interfere with their secular educational functions. The court held that the Act authorized grants to church-related schools, and sustained its constitutionality, finding that the Act had neither the purpose nor the effect of promoting religion. Held: The Act is constitutional except for that portion providing for a 20-year limitation on the religious use of the facilities constructed with federal funds. P. 2095.

312 F.Supp. 1191, vacated and remanded.

The CHIEF JUSTICE, joined by Mr. Justice HARLAN, Mr. Justice STEWART, and Mr. Justice BLACKMUN, concluded that:

1. The Act includes colleges and universities with religious affiliations. Pp. 676—677.

2. Congress' objective of providing more opportunity for college education is a legitimate secular goal entirely appropriate for governmental action. Pp. 678—679.

3. The record fully supports the District Court's findings that the colleges involved have not violated the statutory restrictions; it provides no basis for assuming that religiosity necessarily permeates the secular education of the colleges; and it yields no evidence that religion seeps into the use of any of the five facilities. Pp. 680—682.

4. The limitation of federal interest in the facilities to a period of 20 years violates the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, as the unrestricted use of valuable property after 20 years is in effect a contribution to a religious body. Pp. 682 684.

5. This case is distinguished from Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 29 L.Ed.2d 745; (a) there is less danger here than in church-related primary and secondary schools dealing with impressionable children that religion will permeate the area of secular education, since religious indoctrination is not a substantial purpose or activity of these church-related colleges, (b) the facilities provided here are themselves religiously neutral, with correspondingly less need for government surveillance, and (c) the government aid here is a one-time, single-purpose construction grant, with only minimal need for inspection. Cumulatively, these factors lessen substantially the potential for divisive religious fragmentation in the political arena. Pp. 684—689.

6. The implementation of the Act does not inhibit the free exercise of religion in violation of the First Amendment. P. 689.

Mr. Justice WHITE concurred in the result in this case. Pp. 661—671.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, joined by Mr. Justice BLACK and Mr. Justice MARSHALL, concluded, with respect to the limitation of federal interest in the facilities to 20 years, that a reversion of a facility at the end of that period to a parochial school would be unconstitutional as a gift of taxpayers' funds and that in other respects also the federal act violates the Establishment Clause. P. 692.

Leo Pfeffer, New York City, for appellants.

Daniel M. Friedman, Washington, D.C., for appellees Richardson and Bell.

F. Michael Ahern, Hartford, Conn., for appellee Peterson.

Edward Bennett Williams, Washington, D.C., for appellee Colleges and Universities.

Mr. Chief Justice BURGER announced the judgment of the Court and an opinion in which Mr. Justice HARLAN, Mr. Justice STEWART and Mr. Justice BLACKMUN join.

This appeal presents important constitutional questions as to federal aid for church-related colleges and universities under Title I of the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, 77 Stat. 364, as amended, 20 U.S.C. §§ 711—721 (1964 ed. and Supp. V), which provides construction grants for buildings and facilities used exclusively for secular educational purposes. We must determine first whether the Act authorizes aid to such church-related institutions, and, if so, whether the Act violates either the Establishment or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.

I

The Higher Education Facilities Act was passed in 1963 in response to a strong nationwide demand for the expansion of college and university facilities to meet the sharply rising number of young people demanding higher education. The Act authorizes federal grants and loans to 'institutions of higher education' for the construction of a wide variety of 'academic facilities.' But § 751(a) (2) (1964 ed., Supp. V) expressly excludes

'any facility used or to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place for religious worship, or * * * any facility which * * * is used or to be used primarily in connection with any part of the program of a school or department of divinity * * *.'

The Act is administered by the United States Commissioner of Education. He advises colleges and universities applying for funds that under the Act no part of the project may be used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or the programs of a divinity school. The Commissioner requires applicants to provide assurances that these restrictions will be respected. The United States retains a 20-year interest in any facility constructed with Title I funds. If, during this period, the recipient violates the statutory conditions, the United States is entitled to recover an amount equal to the proportion of its present value that the federal grant bore to the original cost of the facility. During the 20-year period, the statutory restrictions are enforced by the Office of Education primarily by way of on-site inspections.

Appellants are citizens and taxpayers of the United States and residents of Connecticut. They brought this suit for injunctive relief against the officials who administer the Act. Four church-related colleges and universities in Connecticut receiving federal construction grants under Title I were also named as defendants. Federal funds were used for five projects at these four institutions: (1) a library building at Sacred Heart University; (2) a music, drama, and arts building at Annhurst College; (3) a science building at Fairfield University; (4) a library building at Fairfield; and (5) a language laboratory at Albertus Magnus College.

A three-judge federal court was convened under 28 U.S.C. § 2282 and § 2284. Appellants attempted to show that the four recipient institutions were 'sectarian' by introducing evidence of their relations with religious authorities, the content of their curricula, and other indicia of their religious character. The sponsorship of these institutions by religious organizations is not disputed. Appellee colleges introduced testimony that they had fully complied with the statutory conditions and that their religious affiliation in no way interfered with the performance of their secular educational functions. The District Court ruled that Title I authorized grants to church-related colleges and universities. It also sustained the constitutionality of the Act, finding that it had neither the purpose nor the effect of promoting religion. 312 F.Supp. 1191. We noted probable jurisdiction. 399 U.S. 904, 90 S.Ct. 2200, 26 L.Ed.2d 558 (1970).

II

We are satisfied that Congress intended the Act to include all colleges and universities regardless of any affiliation with or sponsorship by a religious body. Congress defined 'institutions of higher education,' which are eligible to receive aid under the Act, in broad and inclusive terms. Certain institutions, for example, institutions that are neither public nor nonprofit, are expressly excluded, and the Act expressly prohibits use of the facilities for religious purposes. But the Act makes no reference to religious affiliation or nonaffiliation. Under these circumstances 'institutions of higher education' must be taken to include churchrelated colleges and universities.

This interpretation is fully supported by the legislative history. Although there was extensive debate on the wisdom and constitutionality of aid to institutions affiliated with religious organizations, Congress clearly included them in the program. The sponsors of the Act so stated, 109 Cong.Rec. 19218 (1963) (remarks of Sen. Morse); id., at 14954 (remarks of Rep. Powell); id., at 14963 (remarks of Rep. Quie), and amendments aimed at the exclusion of church-related institutions were defeated. Id., at 14990—14992, 19496.

III

Numerous cases considered by the Court have noted the internal tension in the First Amendment between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Walz v. Tax Comm'n, 397 U.S. 664, 90 S.Ct. 1409, 25 L.Ed.2d 697 (1970), is the most recent decision seeking to define the boundaries of the neutral area between these two provisions within which the legislature may legitimately act. There, as in other decisions, the Court treated the three main concerns against which the Establishment Clause sought to...

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