Agostini v. Felton

In Agostini v. Felton, 521 U. S. 203 (1997), the Supreme Court brought some clarity to our case law, by overruling two anomalous precedents (one in whole, the other in part) and by consolidating some of our previously disparate considerations under a revised test. Whereas in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602 (1971) the Supreme Court had considered whether a statute (1) has a secular purpose, (2) has a primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, or (3) creates an excessive entanglement between government and religion, see 403 U. S., at 612-613, in Agostini the Supreme Court modified Lemon for purposes of evaluating aid to schools and examined only the first and second factors, see 521 U. S., at 222-223. The Supreme Court acknowledged that our cases discussing excessive entanglement had applied many of the same considerations as had our cases discussing primary effect, and we therefore recast Lemon `s entanglement inquiry as simply one criterion relevant to determining a statute's effect. Agostini, supra, at 232-233. The Supreme Court also acknowledged that our cases had pared somewhat the factors that could justify a finding of excessive entanglement. 521 U. S., at 233-234. The Supreme Court then set out revised criteria for determining the effect of a statute: "To summarize, New York City's Title I program does not run afoul of any of three primary criteria we currently use to evaluate whether government aid has the effect of advancing religion: It does not result in governmental indoctrination; define its recipients by reference to religion; or create an excessive entanglement." Id., at 234. In Agostini, after reexamining our jurisprudence since School Dist. of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U. S. 373 (1985), the Supreme Court explained that the general principles used to determine whether government aid violates the Establishment Clause have remained largely unchanged. 521 U. S., at 222. Thus, we still ask "whether the government acted with the purpose of advancing or inhibiting religion" and "whether the aid has the `effect' of advancing or inhibiting religion." Id., at 222- 223. The Supreme Court also concluded in Agostini, however, that the specific criteria used to determine whether government aid has an impermissible effect had changed. Id., at 223. Looking to our recently decided cases, we articulated three primary criteria to guide the determination whether a governmentaid program impermissibly advances religion: (1) whether the aid results in governmental indoctrination, (2) whether the aid program defines its recipients by reference to religion, and (3) whether the aid creates an excessive entanglement between government and religion. Id., at 234. Finally, the Supreme Court noted that the same criteria could be reviewed to determine whether a government-aid program constitutes an endorsement of religion. Id., at 235.