Congress passed the Education
Consolidation and Improvement Act.
Chapter 2 of the Act provided funds to buy books and educational
Private schools, even
religious schools could get Chapter 2 funds, provided they were used for "secular,
neutral, and non-ideological" programs."
Helms and others sued,
claiming that Chapter 2 was a violation of the 1st
because it allowed religious schools to get public money.
The Trial Court found Chapter
2 to be unconstitutional.
The Trial Court found that
Chapter 2 was a violation of the Establishment Clause because it had the primary effect of advancing
The law gave public money
to schools that were very sectarian.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found
that Chapter 2 was not a violation of the Establishment Clause because it was neutral, and gave money to all
"If the religious,
irreligious, and areligious are all alike eligible for governmental aid,
no one would conclude that any indoctrination that any particular
recipient conducts has been done at the behest of the government."
The Court applied the Lemon
Test, and found that Chapter 2 did
have a secular purpose, did not have the primary effect of advancing a
religion, and did not involve excessive entanglement between government
See Lemon v. Kurtzman (403 U.S. 602 (1971)).
This decision was similar to Rosenberger
v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (515 U.S. 819 (1995)). In both cases the
Court found that as long as you give funds to everyone equally, the fact
that some religious organizations get some doesn't automatically make it a
violation of the Establishment Clause.