RESPONDENT: James E. Allen Jr., Commissioner of Education of the State of New York et al.
LOCATION: Rensselaer/Columbia County Central School District No. 1
DOCKET NO.: 660
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
CITATION: 392 US 236 (1968)
ARGUED: Apr 22, 1968
DECIDED: Jun 10, 1968
Facts of the case
A 1965 amendment to New York's Education Law required public school boards to lend textbooks to elementary and secondary school students enrolled in private and parochial schools. The Board of Education for New York Central School District No. 1, contending that the law violated the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment, filed suit against James Allen, Commissioner of Education, requesting a declaratory injunction to prevent enforcement of the statute. The trial court agreed with the board and found the statute unconstitutional. The Appellate Division reversed the ruling, finding that the boards lacked standing. On appeal, the New York Court of Appeals ruled the boards did have standing, but also found that, because the law's purpose was to benefit all students regardless of the type of school they attended, the law did not violate the First Amendment.
Do the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment forbid New York from requiring that public school boards loan textbooks to parochial school students without cost?
Media for Board of Ed. of Central School Dist. No. 1 v. Allen
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 22, 1968 in Board of Ed. of Central School Dist. No. 1 v. Allen
Number 660, Board of Education of Central School District number 1, et al. appellants, versus James E. Allen, Jr. as Commissioner of Education of New York, et al.
Marvin E. Pollock:
May it please the Court.
The issue in this case is where a consonant with the religious clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The State of New York may furnish textbooks purchased with tax raised funds for use in religious schools.
The material facts in the case are not in dispute.
Prior to 1965, Section 701 of the New York Education law, authorized local school boards to purchase textbooks and either to loan or sell them to pupils in the public schools in the state.
In 1965, the provisions relating to textbooks in Section 701 were amended effective September 1, 1966.
The effect of the amendment was to turn a permissive practice into a mandatory one and to extend the coverage of the law to private schools.
Under the law as amended, each school board in New York must purchase and long free of charge to all children residing in its district enrolled in a grade from 7 through 12 of an accredited public or private school any textbook requested by the child so long as the textbook was one designated for use in any public school in the state or by any school board in the state.
As originally enacted, the law contained no limit on the number of books required to be purchased and no limit on the amount of money that had to be spent for the books by the local school district.
It did however provide for state reimbursement or state allocation to the extent of $10.00 a pupil.
In the view of the East Greenbush School Board which had children residing in its district who were enrolled in grade 7 through 12 accredited private religious schools.
The provisions of Section 701 as amended violated both the New York State Constitution and the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution both of which each member had sworn to uphold.
Failure to implement the law on a part of this board would have subjected the members a removal from office and also would have subjected the school district to a loss of state funds.
To resolve this conflict, the Greenbush School Board filed an action in the Supreme Court Albany County.
The relief sought in the complaint was a judgment declaring the Textbook Law to the extent that related to church schools unconstitutional and in violation to both the New York State Constitution on the First amendment to the Federal Constitution.
It also sought an order in joining the State Commissioner of Education from implementing the provisions of the law.
You're objecting only to the adaptation of the statute in the parochial schools, are you not?
Marvin E. Pollock:
That's correct, Your Honor.
You had no constitutional objection to furnish the nonsectarian schools?
Marvin E. Pollock:
These boards have raised no constitutional objection.
After the suit was filed and the suit incidentally was filed April 29, 1966 which is about four month before the law was to go into effect, after the suit was filed, the Textbook Law was further amended in two respects.
The first respect was to reduce the financial book on the local school boards.
The second respect was to define a textbook as used in the statute to mean a book which a student is required to use as a text for a semester or more in a school he legally attends.
In schools what, I didn't understand?
Marvin E. Pollock:
In a school he legally attends.
The state answered the complaint, did not raise any material issue of fact but did deny the allegations relating to the unconstitutionality of the law.
The state also raised a number of affirmative offenses, principal one of which was that the Greenbush School Board lacks standing to sue on the ground that it was an instrumentality of the state and could not challenge State Law.
After issue was joined, five parents of children who resided in the East Greenbush School Board were permitted to intervene in the action.