Sentenza 25 giugno 1997
USA. Programma federale di sostegno a una scuola confessionale e violazione del primo emendamento della Costituzione federale
Corte Suprema degli Stati Uniti d’America. Sentenza 25 giugno 1997.
Pres. Rehnquist, Rel. O’Connor – Agostini et al. v. Felton et al.
c) The Court’s more recent cases have undermined the assumptions upon which Ball and Aguilar relied. Contrary to Aguilar’s conclusion, placing full-time government employees on parochial school campuses does not as a matter of law have the impermissible effect of advancing religion through indoctrination.
Subsequent cases have modified in two significant respects the approach the Court uses to assess whether the government has impermissibly advanced religion by inculcating religious beliefs. First, the Court has abandoned Ball’s presumption that public employees placed on parochial school grounds will inevitably inculcate religion or that their presence constitutes a symbolic union between government and religion. Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School Dist., 509 U.S. 1, 12-13. No evidence has ever shown that any New York City instructor teaching on parochial school premises attempted to inculcate religion in students. Second, the Court has departed from Ball’s rule that all government aid that directly aids the educational function of religious schools is invalid. Witters v. Washington Dept. of Servs. for Blind, 474 U.S. 481, 487; Zobrest, supra, at 10, 12. In all relevant respects, the provision of the instructional services here at issue is indistinguishable from the provision of a sign-language interpreter in Zobrest. Zobrest and Witters make clear that, under current law, the “Shared Time” program in Ball and New York City’s Title I program will not, as a matter of law, be deemed to have the effect of advancing religion through indoctrination. Thus, both this Court’s precedent and its experience require rejection of the premises upon which Ball relied. Pp. 16-24.
d) New York City’s Title I program does not give aid recipients any incentive to modify their religious beliefs or practices in order to obtain program services. Although Ball and Aguilar completely ignored this consideration, other Establishment Clause cases before and since have examined the criteria by which an aid program identifies its beneficiaries to determine whether the criteria themselves have the effect of advancing religion by creating a financial incentive to undertake religious indoctrination. Cf. e.g., Witters, supra, at 488; Zobrest, supra, at 10. Such an incentive is not present where, as here, the aid is allocated on the basis of neutral, secular criteria that neither favor nor disfavor religion, and is made available to both religious and secular beneficiaries on a nondiscriminatory basis. Under such circumstances, the aid is less likely to have the effect of advancing religion. See Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263, 274. New York City’s Title I services are available to all children who meet the eligibility requirements, no matter what their religious beliefs or where they go to school. Pp. 24-26.
e) The Aguilar Court erred in concluding that New York City’s Title I program resulted in an excessive entanglement between church and state. Regardless of whether entanglement is considered in the course of assessing if a program has an impermissible effect of advancing religion, Walz v. Tax Comm’n of City of New York, 397 U.S. 664, 674, or as a factor separate and apart from “effect,” Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S., 612-613, the considerations used to assess its excessiveness are similar: The Court looks to the character and purposes of the benefited institutions, the nature of the aid that the State provides, and the resulting relationship between the government and religious authority. Id., at 615. It is simplest to recognize why entanglement is significant and treat it – as the Court did in Walz – as an aspect of the inquiry into a statute’s effect. The Aguilar Court’s finding of “excessive” entanglement rested on three grounds: i) the program would require “pervasive monitoring by public authorities” to ensure that Title I employees did not inculcate religion; ii) the program required “administrative cooperation” between the government and parochial schools; and iii) the program might increase the dangers of “political divisiveness”. 473 U.S., at 413-414. Under the Court’s current Establishment Clause understanding, the last two considerations are insufficient to create an “excessive entanglement” because they are present no matter where Title I services are offered, but no court has held that Title I services cannot be offered off-campus. Eg., Aguilar, supra. Further, the first consideration has been undermined by Zobrest. Because the Court in Zobrest abandoned the presumption that public employees will inculcate religion simply because they happen to be in a sectarian environment, there is no longer any need to assume that pervasive monitoring of Title I teachers is required. There is no suggestion in the record that the system New York City has in place to monitor Title I employees is insufficient to prevent or to detect inculcation. Moreover, the Court has failed to find excessive entanglement in cases involving far more onerous burdens on religious institutions. See Bowen v. Kendrick, 487 U. S. 589, 615-617. Pp. 26-29.
f) Thus, New York City’s Title I program does not run afoul of any of three primary criteria the Court currently uses to evaluate whether government aid has the effect of advancing religion: It does not result in governmental indoctrination, define its recipients by reference to religion, or create an excessive entanglement. Nor can this carefully constrained program reasonably be viewed as an endorsement of religion. Pp. 28-29.
101 F. 3d 1394, reversed and remanded.
O’Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C.J., and Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Souter, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens and Ginsburg, JJ., joined, and in which Breyer, J., joined as to Part II. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, Souter, and Breyer, JJ., joined.
1. A federally funded program providing supplemental, remedial instruction to disadvantaged children on a neutral basis is not invalid under the Establishment Clause when such instruction is given on the premises of sectarian schools by government employees under a program containing safeguards such as those present in New York City’s Title I program. Accordingly, Aguilar, as well as that portion of its companion case, School Dist. of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U. S. 373, addressing a “Shared Time” program, are no longer good law. Pp. 8-31.