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Monday, December 2, 2013

Subsidizing Religion? Are School Vouchers for Religious Schools Constitutional?

12:10 - 1:45 pm
Room 129, Yale Law School


Steven G. Calabresi
Clayton J. and Henry R. Barber Professor of Law, Northwestern Law School
Co-Founder, The Federalist Society

Benjamin Justice
Associate Professor and Social Studies Education Program Director, The Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University

In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), a divided Supreme Court upheld Cleveland’s school vouchers program against the challenge that public funds for students’ enrollment in religious schools violated the Establishment Clause. Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the Court, argued for the law’s neutrality with respect to religion and highlighted the program’s secular purpose and the parents’ role in choosing whether to enroll their children in a religious or secular school, but Justice Stevens found these arguments irrelevant when considering the central concern of the government supporting religious education and indoctrination. Ought vouchers be considered government funding for religion, or can religious schools reasonably be considered to provide a secular education worthy of public subsidy? Does the Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman conflict with its earlier jurisprudence, arising in Everson v. Board of Education (1947) and continuing in subsequent cases, that sought to disentangle religious education and public funding? Assuming the prudence of a voucher program, to what extent ought parents’ choice to enroll their children in religious schools be protected under the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection? Join us for our final event of the first semester as we consider the current debate surrounding vouchers, school choice, and the First Amendment.