Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia

Public Aid to Church-Related Elementary and Secondary Schools.

The question whether or not ch.-related elementary and secondary schools in the US should receive govt. aid became an issue in the late 1950s–1960s. The US Congress, many state legislatures, and courts wrestled with constitutional and practical problems. The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Educ. Act provides minimal aid to children in nonpublic schools under certain conditions. Under the child benefit theory, which holds that aid to the child is permissible but aid to the institution is not, the aid under this Act normally flows to the child through pub.-school channels. Benefits were broadened 1972.

The fed. lunch program was made available to all schools 1946; children and teachers in ch.-related schools have benefited also from other services.

In 1970, sixteen states provided bus transportation for children in nonpublic schools; 13 others authorized such transportation under various restrictions. A number of states provided textbook loans, and med., dental, psychiatric, testing, speech correction, reading and/or other services.

In the 1960s the “purchase of services” concept gained momentum. Several states authorized purchase of services from nonpublic schools, including ch.-related schools, in specified curriculum areas. Pennsylvania pioneered in introd. this concept and several other states followed suit.

The debate about aid to ch.-related schools deals partly with constitutionality, on which the courts will have to rule, partly with “pub. service” performed by nonpublic schools. The US Supreme Court has ruled that incidental aid to a ch.-related school is not unconstitutional so long as the education serves the “secular purpose” of the state; further rulings are necessary in the interest of constitutional clarity.

Aid for direct religious instruction, for worship activities, and for special efforts in training for ch. membership is clearly out of the question. Perhaps more attention will be given to the “permeation issue”: whether or not a ch.-related school may in its gen. educ. program accept aid and still refer to God or use religious motivation in so-called secular subjects for which aid is provided. A distinction bet. “secular purpose” and “secular instruction” will have to be made.

Various organizations of interested citizens and ch.-related groups seek aid to ch.-related schools on state and nat. levels. Citizens for Educational Freedom was perhaps the 1st. The Nat. Cath. Educational Assoc. and the Nat. Union of Christian Schools favor it. LCMS favors aid so long as it does not interfere with the distinctive purpose of ch.-related schools; it encourages its officials to help shape acceptable legislation.

Organized opponents of aid to ch.-related schools include the Am. Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Ch. and State, the Am. Jewish Congress, and various groups representing pub. schools.

Important issues for chs. maintaining schools: (1) who will control their educ. enterprise; (2) how to maintain willing support for their schools by their mems. if the secular govt. contributes much to meet nonpublic school costs. These issues involve risks. WAK

See also Church and State, 14; Schools, Church Related.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

Stay Connected! Join the LCMS Network:

Contact Us Online
(Staff Switchboard)
(Church Info Center)
1333 S Kirkwood Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63122-7226 | Directions


Featured Publication

The Lutheran Witness

LCMS Communications

Interpreting the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.
Visit TLW Online