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A Minnesota statute that provides a tax deduction for parents of school aged children for school related expenses is alleged to be unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution as it applies not just to public schools, but to private schools as well. The appeals court ruled that statute did not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) affirmed. The Supreme Court stated that it rejects the argument that any government program that in some manner aids an institution with a religious affiliation violates the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court instead stated the rule in Lemon, whether the statute has the primary effect of advancing the sectarian aim of the non-public schools was the more appropriate test. The Supreme Court found the Minnesota statute in question did not have a primary effect of advancing sectarian aims, as the deduction is available for educational expenses incurred by all parents, applying to those whose children that attend pubic schools and those who attend nonsectarian private schools and those who attend sectarian private schools. The Supreme Court also stated that there was not excessive government entanglement in religion under the third inquiry of the Lemon test.
Whether a Minnesota income tax deduction available for expenses incurred in sending children to public as well as non-public schools violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
Affirmed. The statute does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the government from establishing laws that promote religion. If the law just generally promotes religion, not favoring one sect over another, the law will be valid under the Lemon test if it (a) has a secular purpose; (b) the law has a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and (iii) does not produce excessive government entanglement in religion.