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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Alton J. Lemon
David H. Kurtzman, et al.
(for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

The Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 109, which reimbursed nonpublic religious schools for certain secular educational services. On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court held that Act 109 violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The case was remanded, and on remand the district court entered an order which permitted the State to reimburse nonpublic religious schools for services provided before Act 109 was declared constitution.

Lemon and others challenged the district court's opinion, asserting that the district court erred in refusing to enjoin payment of around $24 million set aside by the State to compensate nonpublic religious schools for educational services rendered during the 1970-1971 school year.


Was it an abuse of a court's discretion to allow payment of allocated funds to nonpublic religious schools, after such allocations were found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court?

Decision: 5 votes for Kurtzman, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion

No. Announcing the Judgment of the Court, Justice Warren E. Burger affirmed the judgment of the district court. The Court held that permitting payment of allocated funds for 1970-1971 school year would not substantially undermine constitutional interest at stake. The Court also recognized that the denial of payment would have serious financial consequences on private schools which relied on the statute and the funds allocated for the 1970-1971 school year.

Justice Byron R. White concurred in the judgment. Justice William O. Douglas, joined by Justice William J. Brennan and Justice Potter Steward, dissented. The dissent held that the First Amendment was violated whether the payment from public funds to religious schools involved the prior year, the current year, or the next year. Justice Thurgood Marshall took no part in consideration of this case.

Cite this Page
LEMON v. KURTZMAN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 01 September 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1972/1972_71_1470>.
LEMON v. KURTZMAN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1972/1972_71_1470 (last visited September 1, 2015).
"LEMON v. KURTZMAN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 1, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1972/1972_71_1470.