The Law School Authority

Roemer v. Bd. of Public Works Case Brief

Summary of Roemer v. Bd. of Public Works, 426 U.S. 736 (1976)

Facts: Maryland enacted a law that gives annual grants to private colleges of which some are religiously affiliated.  Grants are subject to a limited use for “sectarian purposes.”  Pl are 4 citizens and Txprs who want to stop payments to religious affiliated institutions by the state and recover amounts already disbursed. Dfs are College of Notre Dame; Mt St. Mary’s College; St. Joseph Collect, and Loyola College–all are affiliated with Roman Catholic Church.

Issue(s): Whether state educational aid program which includes payments to religiously affiliated institutions violates Est Cl?

Holding: The state aid has a secular purpose; the law’s primary effect is other than the advancement of religion; and there’s no tendency to entangle state govt excessively with religious affairs.

Procedure: D Ct denied injunction barring operation of law.  Direct appeal to U.S.S.Ct.: Affirmed D.Ct. Judgment.

Rule(s): 1st and 14th Amend; Lemon Test.

Rationale: Religious institutions are not required to be quarantined from public benefits that are neutrally available to all.  States must confine their secular activities and neither advance nor impede religion.  Lemon’s 1st prong is not at issue.

Effect: Hunt only req’s that no aid to institutions so “pervasively sectarian” it can’t be separated from secular ones; and if secular can be separated, they alone may be funded.

Colleges here are not ‘pervasively sectarian” b/c role of religion on the campuses is of a general character.  Next: was the aid in fact given only to secular side?

Assume state colleges will honor statutory prohibitions and not pay religious institutions.

Entangle:  Procedurally the state requires annual proposal-approval and expenditure-review btwn colleges and state Ed. Council.  The character of institutions are essentially secular in function.  Process of disbursement and the resulting use are both secular and religious.   Merely b/c a state funding process is an annual procedure does not by itself lead to entanglement.  The form of aid is important, but the character of the institutions has more weight. Nature of subsidy plus the increase demand for funding does not create a Subst’l danger of political entanglement.

DISSENT: State payment to colleges affiliated with a religions, unmarked for a specific purpose, constitutes payment of general subsidy for religion out of public funds.


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