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The AFLA does not necessarily have the effect of advancing religion, just because the religiously affiliated AFLA grantees will be providing educational and counseling services to adolescents. The Establishment Clause does prohibit government-financed or government-sponsored indoctrination into the beliefs of a particular religious faith, and courts have accordingly struck down programs that entail an unacceptable risk that government funding would be used to "advance the religious mission" of the religious institution receiving aid. When the aid is to flow to religiously affiliated institutions that are not pervasively sectarian, there is no presumption that it would be used in a way that would have the primary effect of advancing religion.
The Adolescent Family Life Act (42 USCS 300z et seq.), adopted in 1981, was a scheme for providing grants to public or nonprofit private organizations or agencies for services and research in the area of premarital adolescent sexual relations and pregnancy. Grant recipients were to provide services for the care of pregnant adolescents and adolescent parents ( 300z-1(a)(7)) and the prevention of adolescent sexual relations ( 300z-1(a)(8)). A number of grantees or subgrantees that received funds under the Act were organizations with institutional ties to religious denominations. A lawsuit challenging the validity of the Act was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by a group of federal taxpayers, members of the clergy, and a religious organization. These parties, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, claimed that the Act, on its face and as applied, violated the establishment of religion clause of the Federal Constitution's First Amendment. The district court held that although the Act had a valid secular purpose, it was unconstitutional on its face because it had the direct and immediate effect of advancing religion insofar as religious organizations were involved in carrying out the programs and purposes of the Act. The district court further held that the Act was unconstitutional as applied, because funds had been provided to "pervasively sectarian" institutions, with the effect of directly advancing religion and leading to entanglement of church and state.
Was the Adolescent Family Life Act invalid on its face for being violative of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?
On direct appeal, the United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The Court held that the Act was not invalid on its face under the establishment of religion clause, because the Act had a valid secular purpose, did not have the primary effect of advancing religion, and did not create an excessive entanglement of church and state. According to the Court, a court might invalidate a statute only if it was motivated wholly by an impermissible purpose. The Act was neutral with regard to a grantee's status as a sectarian or secular institution, and religious institutions did not have to be quarantined from public benefits that were neutrally available to all. When aid flowed to religiously affiliated institutions not pervasively sectarian, there was no presumption that it would be used in a way that would have the primary effect of advancing religion. The Court held that it was not enough to show that the recipient of a challenged grant was affiliated with a religious institution or was religiously inspired.