Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet
|Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet|
|Argued March 30, 1994|
Decided June 27, 1994
|Full case name||Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District, Petitioner v. Louis Grumet, et al.|
|Citations||512 U.S. 687 (more)|
|Prior||On writs of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of New York|
|A New York statute that carved out a school district that followed village lines, which village was almost entirely composed of members of one religious group, was held to violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.|
|Majority||Souter (parts I, II-B, II-C, III), joined by Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor, Ginsburg|
|Plurality||Souter (parts II (introduction), II-A), joined by Blackmun, Stevens, Ginsburg|
|Concurrence||Stevens, joined by Blackmun, Ginsburg|
|Dissent||Scalia, joined by Rehnquist, Thomas|
|U.S. Const., amend. I|
Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of a school district created with boundaries that matched that of a religious community - in this case, the Satmar community of Kiryas Joel. The case was argued by Nathan Lewin on behalf of Kiryas Joel, Julie Mereson on behalf of the State of New York, and Jay Worona on behalf of the respondents.
Opinion of the court
The court, in an opinion by Justice Souter, held that the creation of a school district unit of government designed to coincide with the neighborhood boundaries of a religious group constitutes an unconstitutional aid to religion. Souter concluded that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion." "There is more than a fine line between the voluntary association that leads to a political community comprising people who share a common religious faith, and the forced separation that occurs when the government draws explicit political boundaries on the basis of peoples' faith. In creating the district in question, New York crossed that line."
[A]ll its residents also wear unusual dress, have unusual civic customs, and have not much to do with people who are culturally different from them ... On what basis does Justice Souter conclude that it is the theological distinctiveness rather than the cultural distinctiveness that was the basis for New York State's decision? The normal assumption would be that it was the latter, since it was not theology but dress, language, and cultural alienation that posed the educational problem for the children.
Scalia argued that the Satmar school district aided the Satmars as a culture rather than a religion, and thus did not constitute impermissible aid to a religious group. The majority, Scalia asserted, would "laud this humanitarian legislation if all of the distinctiveness of the students of Kiryas Joel were attributable to the fact that their parents were nonreligious commune dwellers, or American Indians, or Gypsies," and concluded that "creation of a special, one-culture school district for the benefit of those children would pose no problem. The neutrality demanded by the Religion Clauses requires the same indulgence towards cultural characteristics that are accompanied by religious belief."
- List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 512
- List of United States Supreme Court cases by the Rehnquist Court