Law School Case Brief
Mueller v. Allen - 463 U.S. 388, 103 S. Ct. 3062 (1983)
The Minnesota tax deduction for educational expenses under Minn. Stat. § 290.09, subd. 22 (1982) satisfies the primary effect inquiry of Establishment Clause cases.
Minn. Stat. § 290.09, subd. 22 (1982), allowed state taxpayers, in computing their state income tax, to deduct expenses incurred in providing “tuition, textbooks and transportation” for their children attending an elementary or secondary school. Petitioner Minnesota taxpayers brought suit in Federal District Court against respondent Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue and respondent parents who had taken the tax deduction for expenses incurred in sending their children to parochial schools, claiming that § 290.09, subd. 22, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by providing financial assistance to sectarian institutions. The District Court granted summary judgment for respondents, holding that the statute was neutral on its and in its application and did not have primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Petitioners appealed.
Did Minn. Stat. § 290.09, subd. 22 (1982) violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution?
The United States Supreme Court held that Minn. Stat. § 290.09, subd. 22 (1982) did not violate the Establishment Clause because it satisfied all elements of f the "three-part" test laid down in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, that must be met for such a statute to be upheld under the Clause. The “three-part test” were as follows: First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion. In the case at bar, the Court held that the tax deduction in question has the secular purpose of ensuring that the State's citizenry was well-educated as well as of assuring the continued financial health of private schools, both sectarian and nonsectarian. Moreover, the deduction did not have the primary effect of advancing the sectarian aims of non-public schools. In this regard the Court held that it was important that the statute was a genuine tax deduction, that it was neutral on its face, and that it provided only indirect support to parochial schools through the individual choices of parents to send their children to those schools. Finally, the Court held that the statute did not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.
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