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Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S.

1 (1947)

Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing

No. 52

Argued November 20, 1946

Decided February 10, 1947

330 U.S. 1

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF ERRORS AND APPEALS OF NEW JERSEY

Syllabus

Pursuant to a New Jersey statute authorizing district boards of education to make rules
and contracts for the transportation of children to and from schools other than private
schools operated for profit, a board of education by resolution authorized the
reimbursement of parents for fares paid for the transportation by public carrier of
children attending public and Catholic schools. The Catholic schools operated under the
superintendency of a Catholic priest and, in addition to secular education, gave religious
instruction in the Catholic Faith. A district taxpayer challenged the validity under the
Federal Constitution of the statute and resolution so far as they authorized
reimbursement to parents for the transportation of children attending sectarian schools.
No question was raised as to whether the exclusion of private schools operated for
profit denied equal protection of the laws; nor did the record show that there were any
children in the district who attended, or would have attended but for the cost of
transportation, any but public or Catholic schools.

Held:

1. The expenditure of tax raised funds thus authorized was for a public purpose, and did
not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 330 U. S. 5-8.

2. The statute and resolution did not violate the provision of the First Amendment (made
applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment) prohibiting any "law respecting
an establishment of religion." Pp. 330 U. S. 8-18.

133 N.J.L. 350, 44 A.2d 333, affirmed.

Page 330 U. S. 2

In a suit by a taxpayer, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the state legislature
was without power under the state constitution to authorize reimbursement to parents of
bus fares paid for transporting their children to schools other than public schools. 132
N.J.L. 98, 39 A.2d 75. The New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals reversed, holding
that neither the statute nor a resolution passed pursuant to it violated the state
constitution or the provisions of the Federal Constitution in issue. 133 N.J.L. 350, 44
A.2d 333. On appeal of the federal questions to this Court, affirmed, p. 330 U. S. 18.

Page 330 U. S. 3

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

A New Jersey statute authorizes its local school districts to make rules and contracts for
the transportation of children to and from schools. [Footnote 1] The appellee, a township
board of education, acting pursuant to this statute, authorized reimbursement to parents
of money expended by them for the bus transportation of their children on regular
busses operated by the public transportation system. Part of this money was for the
payment of transportation of some children in the community to Catholic parochial
schools. These church schools give their students, in addition to secular education,
regular religious instruction conforming to the religious tenets and modes of worship of
the Catholic Faith. The superintendent of these schools is a Catholic priest.

The appellant, in his capacity as a district taxpayer, filed suit in a state court challenging
the right of the Board to reimburse parents of parochial school students. He

Page 330 U. S. 4

contended that the statute and the resolution passed pursuant to it violated both the
State and the Federal Constitutions. That court held that the legislature was without
power to authorize such payment under the state constitution. 132 N.J.L. 98, 39 A.2d
75. The New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals reversed, holding that neither the
statute nor the resolution passed pursuant to it was in conflict with the State constitution
or the provisions of the Federal Constitution in issue. 133 N.J.L. 350, 44 A.2d 333. The
case is here on appeal under 28 U.S.C. 344(a).

Since there has been no attack on the statute on the ground that a part of its language
excludes children attending private schools operated for profit from enjoying State
payment for their transportation, we need not consider this exclusionary language; it has
no relevancy to any constitutional question here presented. [Footnote 2] Furthermore, if
the exclusion clause had been properly challenged, we do not know whether New
Jersey's highest court would construe its statutes as precluding payment of the school