Sentenza 27 giugno 1994
USA. Principio di neutralità delle leggi e divieto di istituzione di un nuovo distretto scolastico sulla base di ragioni esclusivamente religiose
Corte Suprema degli Stati Uniti d’America. Sentenza 27 giugno 1994.
Pres. e Rel. Souter – Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District c. Louis Grumet et al.
The New York Village of Kiryas Joel is a religious enclave of Satmar Hasidim, practitioners of a strict form of Judaism. Its incorporators intentionally drew its boundaries under the Stateís general village incorporation law to exclude all but Satmars. The village fell within the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District until a special state statute, 1989 N.Y. Laws, ch. 748, carved out a separate district that follows village lines. Although the statute gives a locally elected school board plenary authorithy over primary and secondary education in the village, the board currently runs only a special education program for handicapped children; other village children attend private religious schools, shich do not offer special educational services. Shortly before the new district began operations, respondents and others brought this action claiming, inter alia, that Chapter 748 violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The state trial court granted summary judgment for respondents, and both the intermediate appellate court and the New York Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that Chapter 748,s primary effect was impermissibly to advance religion.
Held: The judgment affirmed.
81 N.Y.2d 518, 601 N.Y.2d 61, 618 N.E.2d 94, affirmed.
Joustice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts II-B, II-C, and III, concluding that Chapter 748 violates the Establishment Clause.
a) Because the Kyrias Joel Village School District did not receive its new governmental authority simply as one of many communities eligible for equal treatment under a general law, there is no assurance that the next religious community seeking a school district of its own will receive one. The anomalously case-specific creation of this district for a religious community leaves the Court without any way to review such state action for the purpose of safeguarding the principle that government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion or irreligion. Nor can the historical context furnish any reason to suppose that the Satmars are merely one in a series of similarly benefited communities, the special Act in this case being entirely at odds with New Yorkís historical trend. Pp. 2491-2492.
b) Althought the Constitution allows the State to accomodate religious need by alleviating special burdens, Chapter 748 crosses the line from permissible accommodation to impermissible establishment. There are, however, several alternatives for providing bilingual and bicultural special education to Satmar children that do not implicate the Establishment Clause. The Monroe-Woodbury school district could offer an educationally appropriate program at one of its public schools or at a neutral site near one of the villageís parochial schools, and if the state legislature should remain dissatisfied with the local districts on matters of special education or bilingual and bicultural offerings.
Justice Souter, joined by Justice Blackmun, Justice Steven, and Justice Ginsburg, concluded in Part II-A that by delegating the Stateís discretionary authority over public schools to a group defined by its common religion, Chapter 748 brings about an impermissible “fusionî of governmental and religious functions. See Larkin v. Grendelís Den, Inc. 459 U.S. 116, 126, 127, 103 S.Ct. 505, 511, 512, 74 L.Ed.2d 297. That a religious criterion was the defining test is shown by the legislatureís undisputed Knowledge that the village was exclusively Satmar when the statute was adopted; by the fact that the creation of such a small and specialized school district ran uniquely counter to customary districtingís origin in a special and unusual legislative Act rather that the Stateís general laws for school district organization. The result is that the legislature has delegated civic authority on the basis of religious belief rather than on neutral principles.
Justice Kennedy, agreeing that the Kiryas Joel Village School District violates the Establishment Clause, concluded that the school districtís real vice is that New York created it by drawing political boundaries on the basis of religion. See, e.g., Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. Ñ, Ñ – Ñ, 113 S.Ct. 2816, Ñ – Ñ, 125 L.Ed.2d 511. There is more than a fine line between the voluntary association that leads to a political community comprised of people who share a common religious faith, and the forced separation that occurs when the fovernment draws explicit political boundaries on the basis of peoplesí faith. In creating the district in question, New York crossed that line.