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Lemon v. Kurtzman - Significance, Supreme Court Establishes The Lemon Test, Further Readings

education board appellant justices


Alton J. Lemon


David H. Kurtzman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Appellant's Claim

That state payment of teachers of secular subjects in parochial schools violates the First Amendment mandate of separation of church and state.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

Henry W. Sawyer III

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

J. Shane Creamer

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Warren E. Burger (writing for the Court), William O. Douglas, John Marshall Harlan II, Potter Stewart, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

None (Thurgood Marshall did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

28 June 1971


The Supreme Court struck down the state laws enabling such payments.

Related Cases

  • Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).
  • McCollum v. Board of Education for District 71, 333 U.S. 203 (1948).
  • Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963).
  • Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236 (1968).
  • Aguilar v. Felton, 473 U.S. 402 (1985).
  • Agostini v. Felton, 117 S. Ct. 1997 (1997).
Lenny Bruce Trial: 1964 - Adjournment For Illness, Adjourned For Vacation [next] [back] Lee v. Washington - The Facts Of The Case, The Supreme Court Rules, Concurring Opinion, Prisoner Lawsuits, Further Readings

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The first condition of the Lemon Test is that the statute or law must serve a secular legislative purpose.

All laws must be rational and directed to or for the common good.

A stature that has a secular legislative purpose must also be directed to or for the common good.The purpose of law is to make men good and laws are not for good men but for bad ones.

Secular of course excludes anything of a religious nature.

In order for the political body and society to remain stable and at peace men must be virtuous, good, and just.Experience shows that for these to persist men need religion and to pray.They must follow good laws and religion makes this possibl.

No law can last or be followed for long without religion because men will not remain virtuous,good,and just.

Religion is absolutely necessary for the common good and it makes men better than civil society can.

Consequently when one says a statute must be of a secular legislative nature the understanding is that it owes its stability to religion in society or the political body and is founded in and grounded in religion.Consequently any statute or law owes its continued existence on religion which religion makes men virtuous,good,and just and without which society will cave in.

To say that a law is a or has a secular legislative purpose in isolation from religion is impossible.