Bowen v. Kendrick

LOCATION:Billy Greenwood’s Residence

DOCKET NO.: 87-253
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)

CITATION: 487 US 589 (1988)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1988

Charles Fried – Argued the cause for the appellant in Nos. 87-253 and 87-431, and for the federal appellee in No. 87-462
Janet Benshoof – Argued the cause for the appellees in Nos. 87-253, 87-431, and 87-775 and the appellants in No. 87-462
Michael W. McConnell – Argued the cause for the appellant in No. 87-775

Facts of the case

The Adolescent Family Life Act (“AFLA”) provided federal funding for organizational services and research in the area of premarital teenage sexuality. Among other requirements, AFLA beneficiaries had to involve religious and governmental agencies in dealing with the problems they faced. Over time, AFLA benefited several organizations with institutional ties to religious denominations. Chan Kendrick, on behalf of several federal taxpayers, clergymen, and the American Jewish Congress, challenged AFLA’s constitutionality. On appeal from a ruling favoring Kendrick, the Supreme Court granted Bowen certiorari.


Do AFLA’s provisions, requiring its beneficiaries to involve both religious and governmental organizations in addressing the problems of teenage sexual relations, violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause?

Media for Bowen v. Kendrick

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 30, 1988 in Bowen v. Kendrick

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 27, 1988 in Bowen v. Kendrick

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinions of the Court to announce in two cases.

And the first of them, Bowen against Kendrick, No. 87-253 and others concerns when in 1981, Congress adopted the AFLA, the American Family Life Act to authorize federal grants to public or private organizations for services and research in the area of premarital adolescent sexual relations and pregnancy.

The Act provides that grantees must furnish certain types of services to adolescents including various types of counseling and education services.

Congress recognized that the complexity of the problems associated with teenage sexuality requires the involvement of religious and charitable organizations, voluntary associations, and other groups in the private sector, as well as government agencies and therefore, emendated that prospective grantees describe how they would involve such organizations including religious organizations and the provisions of service under the Act.

The Act also provides that federal funds may not be used for certain purposes including family planning services and the promotion of abortion.

In this case, the District Court here in the District of Columbia ruled that the American Family Life Act was invalid both on its face and as applied.

The Court ruled that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution prevented any involvement by religious organizations in the federally funded programs.

We now reverse the District Court and hold that the Family Life Act is not invalid on its face.

We apply the three prong standard first announced in Lemon against Kurtzman and hold first that the Act has a valid secular purpose of eliminating or reducing the social and economic problems associated with teenage sexuality, pregnancy, and parenthood.

As of the second prong of Lemon, the effects test, we hold that the Act on its face does not have the primary effect of advancing religion.

The Act does not require to grantees be affiliated with any religious denomination and the services provided under the Act are not religious in character.

We have never held that religious organizations are prevented from being involved in the federal grant program that provides aid neutrally to both sectarian and non-sectarian institutions.

Finally, we do not think that the Act violates the entanglement prong of the Lemon test, although monitoring of grantees will be necessary to ensure that public money is spent in the way that Congress intended, and in a way that comports with the Establishment Clause.

We do not believe that this monitoring is of such a type that will cause the Government to intrude unduly in the day-to-day operations of the religiously affiliated grantees.

The District Court also struck down the Act as applied.

In regard to this claim, we first find that the appellees have standing to raise an Establishment Clause challenge.

As to the merits of the challenge, we conclude that the District Court did not follow the proper approach in assessing the claim that the Secretary is making grants under the act that violate the Establishment Clause.

Although the record contains evidence of specific incidence of impermissible behavior by certain grantees, we remand the case for further consideration of the evidence insofar as it sheds light on the manner in which the statute is being administered.

Justice O’Connor has filed a concurring opinion.

Justice Kennedy has also filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Scalia has joined.

Justice Blackmun has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Stevens have joined.