Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet

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Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued March 30, 1994
Decided June 27, 1994
Full case name Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District, Petitioner v. Louis Grumet, et al.
Citations 512 U.S. 687 (more)
114 S. Ct. 2481; 129 L. Ed. 2d 546; 1994 U.S. LEXIS 4830; 62 U.S.L.W. 4665; 94 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4818; 94 Daily Journal DAR 8917; 8 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 359
Case history
Prior On writs of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of New York
A New York statute that carved out a school district that followed village lines, which village was almost entirely composed of members of one religious group, was held to violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
Harry Blackmun · John P. Stevens
Sandra Day O'Connor · Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy · David Souter
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Case opinions
Majority Souter (parts I, II-B, II-C, III), joined by Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor, Ginsburg
Plurality Souter (parts II (introduction), II-A), joined by Blackmun, Stevens, Ginsburg
Concurrence Blackmun
Concurrence Stevens, joined by Blackmun, Ginsburg
Concurrence O'Connor
Concurrence Kennedy
Dissent Scalia, joined by Rehnquist, Thomas
Laws applied
U.S. Const., amend. I

Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994),[1] was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of a school district created with boundaries that matched that of a religious community - in this case, the Satmar community of Kiryas Joel. The case was argued by Nathan Lewin on behalf of Kiryas Joel, Julie Mereson on behalf of the State of New York, and Jay Worona on behalf of the respondents.[1]

Opinion of the court

The court, in an opinion by Justice Souter, held that the creation of a school district unit of government designed to coincide with the neighborhood boundaries of a religious group constitutes an unconstitutional aid to religion. Souter concluded that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion." "There is more than a fine line between the voluntary association that leads to a political community comprising people who share a common religious faith, and the forced separation that occurs when the government draws explicit political boundaries on the basis of peoples' faith. In creating the district in question, New York crossed that line."


Justice Scalia, in his dissent, acknowledged that the residents of this district are Satmar Hasidic Jews, but noted of the Satmar community:

[A]ll its residents also wear unusual dress, have unusual civic customs, and have not much to do with people who are culturally different from them ... On what basis does Justice Souter conclude that it is the theological distinctiveness rather than the cultural distinctiveness that was the basis for New York State's decision? The normal assumption would be that it was the latter, since it was not theology but dress, language, and cultural alienation that posed the educational problem for the children.

Scalia argued that the Satmar school district aided the Satmars as a culture rather than a religion, and thus did not constitute impermissible aid to a religious group. The majority, Scalia asserted, would "laud this humanitarian legislation if all of the distinctiveness of the students of Kiryas Joel were attributable to the fact that their parents were nonreligious commune dwellers, or American Indians, or Gypsies," and concluded that "creation of a special, one-culture school district for the benefit of those children would pose no problem. The neutrality demanded by the Religion Clauses requires the same indulgence towards cultural characteristics that are accompanied by religious belief."

See also


  1. ^ "Transcript of Oral Argument: Kiryas Joel v. Grumet" (PDF).

External links

  • ^ Text of Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994) is available from:  CourtListener  Google Scholar  Justia  Library of Congress  Oyez (oral argument audio) 
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