Tilton v. Richardson

RESPONDENT: Richardson
LOCATION: Congress

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 403 US 672 (1971)
ARGUED: Mar 02, 1971 / Mar 03, 1971
DECIDED: Jun 28, 1971

Facts of the case

The federal Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963 provided construction grants to church-sponsored higher educational institutions. The grants were to be used for the construction of non-religious school facilities. The Act also stipulated that twenty years after the grant had been given, schools were free to use the buildings for any purpose.


Did the Act violate the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment?

Media for Tilton v. Richardson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1971 in Tilton v. Richardson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1971 in Tilton v. Richardson

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in number 153, Tilton and Others against Richardson.

Mr. Pfeffer, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Leo Pfeffer:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a tax payer suit --

Warren E. Burger:

I should comment to you, as we indicated before we opened this morning, Mr. Justice Marshall is unavoidably absent due to an illness and he will make his own decision as to the participation and if he does then participate, it will be on the basis of all of the usual papers and on the tape recording of the argument, of course.

Leo Pfeffer:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice.

Counsel said--

Warren E. Burger:

I understand that's entirely agreeable.

Leo Pfeffer:


This is a tax payer suit challenging both the interpretation and, secondarily, the constitutionality of Title 1 of the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963.

The statute provides for grounds of federal funds to construct what is called academic facilities at undergraduate educational institutions at the post secondary level and, as far as it's relevant to this case, it defines academic facilities among others, as those which -- to exclude those used for sectarian instruction or religious worship or any part of which -- the school which is part of it, the school or department of divinity.

Other than that, it does not contain any expressed exclusion on predicated part of the nature of the beneficiary institution.

The questions as presented by this appeal, as we see it, first, is not, although that appears to be housing both, all appellees seek to frame it is not whether church-related colleges are disqualified from participating in the benefits of the statute.

If it were, if that was the question, we would not be here.

We concede and have never contended to the contrary that the mere fact that a college is church-related does not either statutorily or constitutionally disqualify it from receiving federal funds.

The question, as we see it, is whether a sectarian institution is disqualified both statutorily and constitutionally.

Now, we've defined in our complaint, in our briefs what we mean by sectarian and, specifically, we call it one in which the propagation, teaching, or practice of religion is a meaningful and major part of its existence.

Potter Stewart:

Where is that written down in your brief?

Leo Pfeffer:

This is-- well, the latest is in reply brief-- I'm reading from reply brief, page 3.

Potter Stewart:

All right.

Leo Pfeffer:

It's in our original brief as well, but I'm reading now from reply brief.

It's in the original brief as well.

The propagation in teaching, or practice of religion is a meaningful and major part of its existence.

This case was brought before this Court decided Walz against Tax Commission of New York.

Had this case been brought after that decision, perhaps it would've defined sectarian in terms of the Court's decision in Walz as one whose dominant policy is to assure future adherence to a particular faith by having control of their total education-- by having the -- to a particular faith by having control of their total education at an early age.

That's in the Walz case.

Potter Stewart:

What do you mean by the word “perhaps”?

Are you suggesting that the two definitions are synonymous?

Leo Pfeffer:


Potter Stewart:

One is preferable to the other?