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Case Basics
Docket No. 
No. 00-1777
No. 00-1779
(Argued the cause for the respondents Simmons-Harris, et al)
(Argued the cause for the private petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondents Gatton, et al)
(Columbus, Ohio, argued the cause for the State petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioners)
Facts of the Case 

Ohio's Pilot Project Scholarship Program provides tuition aid in the form of vouchers for certain students in the Cleveland City School District to attend participating public or private schools of their parent's choosing. Both religious and nonreligious schools in the district may participate. Tuition aid is distributed to parents according to financial need, and where the aid is spent depends solely upon where parents choose to enroll their children. In the 1999-2000 school year 82 percent of the participating private schools had a religious affiliation and 96 percent of the students participating in the scholarship program were enrolled in religiously affiliated schools. Sixty percent of the students were from families at or below the poverty line. A group of Ohio taxpayers sought to enjoin the program on the ground that it violated the Establishment Clause. The District Court granted them summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


Does Ohio's school voucher program violate the Establishment Clause?

Decision: 5 votes for Zelman, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion

No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that the program does not violate the Establishment Clause. The Court reasoned that, because Ohio's program is part of Ohio's general undertaking to provide educational opportunities to children, government aid reaches religious institutions only by way of the deliberate choices of numerous individual recipients and the incidental advancement of a religious mission, or any perceived endorsement, is reasonably attributable to the individual aid recipients not the government. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote that the "Ohio program is entirely neutral with respect to religion. It provides benefits directly to a wide spectrum of individuals, defined only by financial need and residence in a particular school district. It permits such individuals to exercise genuine choice among options public and private, secular and religious. The program is therefore a program of true private choice."

Cite this Page
ZELMAN v. SIMMONS-HARRIS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 27 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_1751>.
ZELMAN v. SIMMONS-HARRIS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_1751 (last visited August 27, 2015).
"ZELMAN v. SIMMONS-HARRIS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 27, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_1751.