Literature Study GuidesLemon V Kurtzman

Lemon v. Kurtzman | Study Guide

United States Supreme Court

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United States Supreme Court

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U.S. Supreme Court Case

At a Glance

  • In the late 1960s, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island began controversial programs giving government aid to religious private schools. Taxpayers felt the programs violated the 1st Amendment's clauses separating church and state.
  • Cases from both states' laws made it to the Supreme Court, which combined the cases and struck down both in 1971.
  • The court determined both programs led to excessive government involvement or "entanglement" with religion. The court justices argued the 1st Amendment was designed to limit faith-based political conflict.
  • Though the justices disagreed on specific points of the case, they agreed that separation of church and state preserves both government neutrality and religious freedom.
  • Public response was largely supportive. The case established a concrete set of three criteria for deciding nuanced cases where government and religion collide.
  • The court still uses the criteria, called the "Lemon Test," in cases involving religion. The Lemon Test is the case's best-known legacy.


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