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Legal Brief of Everson v. Board of Education by David A.W. Hittle

Everson v. Board of Education

330 U.S. 1; 67 S.Ct. 504; 91 L.Ed. 711 (1947)

Vote: 5-4


The Facts in this case are these: A New Jersey statute authorizes its local school districts to make rules and contracts for the transportation of children to and from schools. A Township Board of Education, authorized reimbursement to parents of money expanded by them for the bus transportation system. Part of this money was for the transportation of some children in the community to Catholic Parochial Schools.


The Issues in this case are these: Was the New Jersey statute used by the Township Board of Education in violation of the First Amendment’s Separation of Church and State.


By a vote of 5 to 4 the Court finds that the Board of Education didn’t violate the Constitution’s First Amendment’s Separation of Church and State, by providing free “tax-payer paid” bus transportation for the safety and welfare of children.


Justice Black for the majority opines that the state is not favoring one religion over the other in its determination to provide tax-payer funding for the transportation of school children, as it conforms to the safety and welfare of those children.  The Court finds that there was no favoritism of one religion over another religion and therefore doesn’t violate the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Majority concludes by stating: “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the lightest breach. New Jersey has not breached it here….


Justice Jackson dissents in his own opinion: he opines: “I have sympathy, though it is not ideological, with Catholic citizens who are compelled by law to pay taxes for public schools, and also feel constrained by conscience and discipline to support other schools…. He further states: “The Court’s opinion marshals every argument in favor of the State and the puts the case in its most favorable light… He feels that the opinion of the Court was for a complete Separation of Church and State. Mr. Justice Frankfurter joins in this opinion.


Mr. Justice Rutledge, Frankfurter, Jackson and Burton submit their own opinion dissenting: they state: “….No one conscious of religious values can be unsympathetic toward the burden which our Constitutional separation puts on parents who desire religious instructions mixed with secular for their children. They pay taxes for other children’s education while at the same time the added cost of instruction for their own.” He concludes be stating: “And for those who exercise it must fully, by insisting upon religious education for their children mixed with secular, by the terms of our Constitution the price is greater than for others….”


The significance of this case is that the state may, when in the best interests of its citizens, and for the safety, morals and welfare of its people provide funding for religious actions as long as that funding is in-direct as in this which is funding for transportation, while direct would be funding directly to a particular school funding a particular religion. In this case the state is funding the reimbursement of transportation to a religious school. The state’s tax-payer funds already are spent for secular transportation; the Court in this case allows the state to provide the same fund to non-secular transportation so that the safety of the children is protected there by.