WASHINGTON (June 28, 2000) -- The U.S. Catholic Conference applauded the June 28 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to allow government funded computers to be used in all schools, public and non-public.
Mark Chopko, General Counsel of the USCC, noted the following.
"In a landmark ruling this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and upheld the constitutionality of a federal education program that provides library books, computers and other resource materials for the benefit of students attending private religious elementary and secondary schools. The participation of these children in the program, Title VI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), had been challenged as a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Court's rejection of this argument makes clear that the Establishment Clause cannot be used to deny children attending religious schools their statutory right to participate on an equitable basis in this important program. Their parents pay federal taxes and it is only fair that their children receive benefits under the federal program, just as public school children do. The Court recognized that this program poses no meaningful threat to lead to an establishment of religion, as understood by the Framers of the Constitution."
"The Court's decision is important in several respects," Chopko continued. "First, it has nationwide ramifications because children attending religious schools throughout the country are eligible to receive Title VI services. Second, it continues a recent trend in the Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence that exhibits a more realistic and benign interpretation of that Clause. The opinions for six Justices affirm the Court's more recent approach taken several years ago in the Agostini case, and abandons two cases decided in the 1970's, Meek v. Pittenger and Wolman v. Walker. Finally, it culminates a four decade attack on ESEA to prevent children attending religious schools from receiving federal education benefits.
"I take particular comfort for the future of litigation in this area in a majority's willingness to continue to reject the rigid and excessively formalistic approach of the past. The Court's emphasis on the design and implementation of the program, and the choices of individual parents, as opposed to some old notion about whether schools were 'pervasively sectarian' is an especially positive development."
Mercy Sister Lourdes Sheehan, the U.S. Bishops' Secretary for Education, also praised the decision.
"This may be one of the most significant decisions that impact the rights of students in religious schools to enjoy equal access to technology and other resources necessary for a quality education in the 21st century," she said.