Supreme Court Skips Parochial School Aid Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a controversy over a federally funded program that supports teachers at religious schools.

In early January, the justices refused without comment to review American Jewish Congress v. Corporation for National Services. The American Jewish Congress (AJC) had challenged the national services program widely known as AmeriCorps for violating church-state separation.

The program provides stipends called “national service education awards” to participants who teach in either public or religious schools. The AJC challenged funding for those working in parochial schools, charging that aid to religion violates the Constitution and a long string of Supreme Court precedents.

Last year, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that the program did not violate the First Amendment.

Following the high court’s refusal to take up the issue, the AJC expressed disappointment.

“Our request presented important questions on church-state law,” the AJC statement said, “and we believe that the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia allowing the Corporation, an agency of the United States, to fund teachers of religion in religious schools, was rendered in the face of other Supreme Court rulings prohibiting such subsidies.”

AJC General Counsel Marc Stern told the Religion News Service that the high court’s stance is “a stark reminder of how weak the wall between church and state has become.”