McCollum v. Board of Education of School Dist. No. 71
Decided on Mar. 8, 1948; 333 US 203


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Separation of church and state, religious education in public schools

B. Legal Question Presented:

Can a Board of Education grant permission to a religious association with members from different faiths, to offer religious instruction to pupils in public schools during the regular school hours?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Appellant... alleged that religious teachers, employed by private religious groups, were permitted to come weekly into the school buildings during the regular hours set apart for secular teaching, and then and there for a period of thirty minutes substitute their religious teaching for the secular education provided under the compulsory education law. The petitioner charged that this joint public-school religious-group program violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

[Appellant's] petition for mandamus was denied on the ground that the school's religious instruction program violated neither the federal nor state constitutional provisions invoked by the appellant. On appeal the State Supreme Court affirmed."

On appeal the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Mr. Walter F. Dodd, of Chicago, IL, for appellant. Messrs. Owen Rall, of Chicago, IL, and John L. Franklin, of Champaign, Ill., for appellees.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"[The facts] show the use of tax-supported property for religious instruction and the close cooperation between the school authorities and the religious council in promoting religious education...

Pupils compelled by law to go to school for secular education are released in part from their legal duty upon the condition that they attend the religious classes. This is beyond all question a utilization of the tax-established and tax-supported public school system to aid religious groups to spread their faith. And it falls squarely under the ban of the First Amendment...

Here not only are the state's tax-supported public school buildings used for the dissemination of religious doctrines. The State also affords sectarian groups an invaluable aid in that it helps to provide pupils for their religious classes through use of the state's compulsory public school machinery. This is not separation of Church and State."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois.

Justice Vote: 8 Pro vs. 1 Con

  • Black, H. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Vinson, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois; the Supreme Court reversed in a 8-1 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.