Board of Ed. of Kiryas Joel Village School Dist. v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994)

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certiorari to the court of appeals of new york

No. 93-517. Argued March 30, 1994—Decided June 27, 1994*

The New York village of Kiryas Joel is a religious enclave of Satmar Hasidim, practitioners of a strict form of Judaism. Its incorporators intentionally drew its boundaries under the State's general village incorporation law to exclude all but Satmars. The village fell within the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District until a special state statute, 1989 N. Y. Laws, ch. 748, carved out a separate district that follows village lines. Although the statute gives a locally elected school board plenary authority over primary and secondary education in the village, the board currently runs only a special education program for handicapped children; other village children attend private religious schools, which do not offer special educational services. Shortly before the new district began operations, respondents and others brought this action claiming, inter alia, that Chapter 748 violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The state trial court granted summary judgment for respondents, and both the intermediate appellate court and the New York Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that Chapter 748's primary effect was impermissibly to advance religion.

Held: The judgment is affirmed. 81 N. Y. 2d 518, 618 N. E. 2d 94, affirmed. Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts II-B, II-C, and III, concluding that Chapter 748 violates the Establishment Clause. Pp. 702-710. (a) Because the Kiryas Joel Village School District did not receive its new governmental authority simply as one of many communities eligible for equal treatment under a general law, there is no assurance that the next religious community seeking a school district of its own will receive one. The anomalously case-specific creation of this district for a religious community leaves the Court without any way to review such state action for the purpose of safeguarding the principle that government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion. Nor can the historical context furnish any reason to suppose that the Sat-*Together with No. 93-527, Board of Education of Monroe-Woodbury Central School District v. Grumet et al., and No. 93-539, Attorney General of New York v. Grumet et al., also on certiorari to the same court.


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