Mccollum v. Board of Education 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

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During the late 1940s and 1950s " released time programs" were popular around the country. Public school boards and administrators cooperated with churches and synagogues to provide religious education for students according to their parents' choices. Under the arrangement in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, students whose parents had so requested were excused from their classes to attend classes given by religious educators in the school buildings. Nonparticipating pupils were not excused from their regular classes.

McCollum, whose child Terry attended the public schools, challenged the Illinois practice on the grounds that it violated the establishment clause of the first amendment. The case was the first church-state controversy to reach the Court since everson v. board of education the year before, and Justice hugo l. black again delivered the opinion of the Court.

Referring to the theory of strict separation announced as obiter dictum in his Everson opinion, Black held that the Illinois arrangement fell squarely within the First Amendment's ban. He stressed particularly the utilization of tax-supported facilities to aid religious teaching.

justice felix frankfurter concurred in an opinion in which Justices robert jackson, wiley b. rutledge, and harold h. burton joined. These four had dissented from Everson 's approval of state aid to the transportation of children to religious schools.

Justice Jackson also concurred separately, rejecting the sweeping separationism of the Black opinion. Pointing out that there was little real cost to the taxpayers in the Illinois program, he agreed that the Court should end "formal and explicit instruction" such as that in the Champaign schools, but cautioned against inviting ceaseless petitions to the Court to purge school curricula of materials that any group might regard as religious.

justice stanley f. reed, the lone dissenter, had concurred in the result in Everson. Here he argued that the majority was giving "establishment" too broad a meaning; unconstitutional "aid" to religion embraced only purposeful assistance directly to a church, not cooperative relationships between government and religious institutions.

McCollum seemed to represent a deepening Supreme Court commitment to the theory of strict separation of church and state, but it was significantly limited by another released-time case, zorach v. clausen (1952).

Richard E. Morgan

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Mccollum v. Board of Education 333 U.S. 203 (1948)

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