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Won U.S. Supreme Court

Agostini v. Felton

The Supreme Court upheld a New York program allowing public school teachers to teach some secular classes to qualifying students enrolled at religious schools.

High school classroom with teen girl raising hand


In 1965, Congress passed Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure that children in impoverished areas received a quality education. When New York sought to implement a program where public school teachers could teach some secular classes to qualifying students enrolled at religious schools, the Supreme Court ruled in Aguilar v. Felton (1985) that such an arrangement created an entanglement between church and state and violated the Establishment Clause.

When Aguilar was remanded and implemented, it created significant economic burdens to make arrangements that satisfied the ruling. In 1995, the Board of Education of the City of New York, along with a group of parents and eligible students at private religious schools, filed a new motion petitioning for relief and arguing that subsequent Supreme Court decisions undermined the Aguilar decision. When the case reached the Supreme Court again, ADF funded an amicus brief supporting the petitioners.

Thankfully, in Agostini v. Felton, the High Court overturned its decision in Aguilar. It held that New York’s program did not violate the Establishment Clause since the program was administered on a neutral basis and had adequate “safeguards” preventing unnecessary church/state interference.

Case Documents

U.S. Supreme Court