A statute authorizing reimbursement to parents of money expended for bus transportation of their children to and from schools, other than those operated for profit, does not, insofar as it permits payment for transportation of children attending Catholic parochial schools, violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as taxing some people to help others carry out their personal desire of having their children educated in church schools.
Acting pursuant to a New Jersey statute, a township board of education (board) authorized reimbursement to parents of money that they expended for the bus transportation of their children to and from parochial schools. Appellant, in his capacity as a district taxpayer, filed suit in a state court challenging the right of the board to reimburse parents of parochial school students. Taxpayer contended that the statute and the resolution passed pursuant to it violated both the state and the federal constitutions. The New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals reversed an order ruling in favor of taxpayer; the taxpayer appealed. The court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals.
Did the statute authorizing reimbursement to parents of money expended for bus transportation of their children to and from schools other than those operated for profit violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
The court held that the First Amendment did not prohibit New Jersey from spending tax-raised funds to pay the bus fares of parochial school pupils as a part of a general program under which it paid the fares of pupils attending public schools. New Jersey could not hamper its citizens in the free exercise of their religion. Consequently, it could not exclude individuals because of their faith from receiving the benefits of public welfare legislation. The state legislation did no more than provide a general program to help parents get their children, regardless of their religion, safely and expeditiously to and from accredited schools.