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EVERSON V.

BOARD OF
EDUCATION
Following is the case brief for Everson v. Board of Education, Supreme Court of
the United States, (1947)

Case summary for Everson v. Board of Education:


▪ Everson challenged a state statute on First Amendment grounds, which
equally allocated funding from tax payers to provide transportation to
students who attend public in addition to students who attend parochial
schools.
▪ The state court found for the school district, claiming the law did not violate
the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
▪ The Court held that the state program that funds student transportation to
parochial schools as part of its general program does not violate the
Establishment Clause.
▪ This was because the program was applied equally to students attending
public and parochial schools and the purposeful exclusion could result in
inhibiting people’s freedom to exercise their religion.

Everson v. Board of Education Case


Brief
Statement of the facts:

A state statute authorized school districts to create contracts on the transporting


of children both to and home from school. Under the state law, a school board
issues a resolution permitting a reimbursement to the parents of those children
attending parochial schools for monies used to put their children on a public bus.
State resident Everson, challenged this resolution as a violation of the First
Amendment’s Establishment Clause by bringing an action against the school
board of Ewing Township.
Procedural History:

On appeal, the New Jersey Supreme Court found for the school board. Everson
appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States and the Court granted
certiorari.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

A state may not refuse to include institutions of religion in subsidy programs that
are general in nature as this could impact the “free exercise of religion” for state
citizens.

Issue and Holding:


Does a state transportation program which applies in uniform to students of both
parochial and public schools violate the First Amendment’s Establishment
Clause? No.
Judgment:

The Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

Reasoning:
The First Amendment of the Constitution does not bar the state of New Jersey
from allocating public funds to pay the transportation costs of students attending
parochial schools in the same way it pays for children attending public schools.

The Court held that although the First Amendment requires a state to stay neutral
regarding their treatment of religious institutions, it also prohibits a state from
directing hostility towards a religion in a manner which interferes with its citizen’s
free exercise of religion. Specifically, the Establishment Clause prohibits a state
from creating a law which “respects the establishment of religion.”

This concept must be balanced against the Free Exercise Clause, which
prohibits the inhibiting of “the free exercise of religion.”

Here, New Jersey did not use taxpayer’s money to pay for parochial school
programs directly, but provided an equal funding transportation program. If New
Jersey failed to fund the transportation of students in parochial schools, operation
of the school itself would become significantly more difficult.
Denial of funds could equate to discouraging religious students from attending
parochial schools. This would result in inhibiting their freedom to exercise their
religion.

Concurring or Dissenting opinion:

Dissenting (Rutledge):

The intent behind the First Amendment was to create a complete separation
between church and state. The majority’s opinion is contrary to the framer’s
intent and violates the principle of absolute separation of church and state
because it allows a transportation program which indirectly funds private schools
with money from the tax paying public.

Dissenting (Jackson):

The Majority’s opinion seems as odds with its desire to erect a wall between
church and state.

Significance:

Everson v. Board of Education helped establish the analysis behind the


Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to state laws. No law can be
created to promote or inhibit religion and a state law which provides all students
equal access to affordable transportation results in neither.