Date of Award

Winter 1986

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation uses the cases involving aid to sectarian schools, decided between 1945 and 1985, as a vehicle for examining decision making by the Supreme Court justices. The discussion of Everson v. Board of Education (1947) relies heavily on the private papers of individual justices, autobiographies, and biographies to determine the importance of personal religious beliefs, the history of the First Amendment, political and judicial philosophies, as well as the efforts of specific individuals to persuade others to their positions. Board of Education v. Allen (1968) is analyzed within the context of the political environment, taking into consideration the government's commitment to equalizing opportunities and the challenge to high-quality education posed by inflation. Transcripts from oral argument provide evidence for the conclusion that the Court was strongly influenced by the political temper of the times. The third major section, focusing on Lemon v. Kurtzman/Robinson v. Dicenso (1971), deals with the justices' reliance on lower court decisions. The papers of Judge William Henry Hastie and the transcript from the Rhode Island hearing along with the judges' opinions provide the basis for the analysis. Covering nearly a dozen cases decided by the Court in the period from 1972 through 1985, the final section of the paper examines the way in which the justices refined and redefined their positions in response to legislation that followed from earlier decisions.