Community Council v. Jordan
In Community Council v. Jordan, 102 Ariz. 448, 451-52, 432 P.2d 460, 463-64 (1967), the Arizona Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of state payments partially reimbursing the Salvation Army, a religious organization, for emergency welfare services it had provided to individuals and families under a contract with the Arizona Department of Public Welfare. 102 Ariz. at 450, 432 P.2d at 462.
In upholding the payments, the court noted that the purpose of the Religion Clause was "to provide for the historical doctrine of separation of church and state, the thrust of which was to insure that there would be no state supported religious institutions." Id. at 451, 432 P.2d at 463.
It thus concluded the Religion Clause was not intended to place a blanket prohibition on the channeling of public funds to religious institutions, but rather to prohibit "assistance in any form whatsoever which would encourage or tend to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion." Id. at 454, 432 P.2d at 466.
The Court applied the "true beneficiary theory" in holding "the payments are made in effect from the state--not to the Salvation Army, but to those who actually profit from the disbursements--to the individuals and families who are destitute and receive the emergency aid." Id. at 455, 432 P.2d at 467.
Under this theory--sometimes called the "child benefit theory" in the education context--the individuals receiving assistance under a government program are characterized as the "true beneficiaries" of the program, rather than the institution receiving public funds to render the assistance. Id.
Jordan described the theory as one of several doctrines that enabled courts to "avoid holding that payments made by governmental authorities to sectarian and ecclesiastical bodies violate the separation of church and state." Id.
In Community Council v. Jordan, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected the argument that any public monies channeled through a religious organization would aid that church contrary to constitutional mandate. 102 Ariz. at 451, 432 P.2d at 463.
Instead, the supreme court upheld payments partially reimbursing the Salvation Army for emergency welfare services it had provided, stating that the Religion Clause was not intended to place a blanket prohibition against channeling public funds to religious organizations, but rather to prohibit "assistance in any form whatsoever which would encourage or tend to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion." Id. at 454, 432 P.2d at 466.
In Jordan, the supreme court rejected the argument that no public funds could be given to private secular or sectarian schools or organizations at all, "notwithstanding the fact that the organization was merely a conduit," and instead adopted the approach to "take a more practical look at the facts and circumstances of each individual case and realistically analyze the situation to see if there is any violation of state or federal constitutional prohibitions." 102 Ariz. at 456, 432 P.2d at 468.