BOWEN V. KENDRICK, 487 U. S. 589 (1988)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowen v. Kendrick, 487 U.S. 589 (1988)

Bowen v. Kendrick

No. 87-253

Argued March 30, 1988

Decided June 29, 1988*

487 U.S. 589


A group of federal taxpayers, clergymen, and the American Jewish Congress (hereinafter appellees) filed this action in Federal District Court, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and challenging the constitutionality, under the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, of the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA or Act), which authorizes federal grants to public or nonprofit private organizations or agencies for services and research in the area of premarital adolescent sexual relations and pregnancy. The Act provides, inter alia, that a grantee must furnish certain types of services, including various types of counseling and education relating to family life and problems associated with adolescent premarital sexual relations; that the complexity of the problem requires the involvement of religious and charitable organizations, voluntary associations, and other groups in the private sector, as well as governmental agencies; and that grantees may not use funds for certain purposes, including family planning services and the promotion of abortion. Federal funding under the Act has gone to a wide variety of recipients, including organizations with institutional ties to religious denominations. Granting summary judgment for appellees, the court declared that the Act, both on its face and as applied, violated the Establishment Clause insofar as it provided for the involvement of religious organizations in the federally funded programs.


1. The Act, on its face, does not violate the Establishment Clause. Pp. 487 U. S. 600-618.

(a) With regard to the first factor of the applicable three-part test set forth in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602, the AFLA has a valid secular purpose. The face of the Act shows that it was motivated primarily, if not entirely, by the legitimate purpose of eliminating or reducing social and economic problems caused by teenage sexuality, pregnancy,

Page 487 U. S. 590

and parenthood. Although the Act, in amending its predecessor, increased the role of religious organizations in programs sponsored by the Act, the challenged provisions were also motivated by other, entirely legitimate secular concerns, such as attempting to enlist the aid of other groups in the private sector to increase broad-based community involvement. Pp. 487 U. S. 602-604.

(b) As to the second Lemon factor, the Act does not have the primary effect of advancing religion. It authorizes grants to institutions that are capable of providing certain services to adolescents, and requires that potential grantees describe how they will involve other organizations, including religious organizations, in the funded programs. However, there is no requirement that grantees be affiliated with any religious denomination, and the services to be provided under the Act are not religious in character. The Act's approach toward dealing with adolescent sexuality and pregnancy is not inherently religious, although it may coincide with the approach taken by certain religions. The provisions expressly mentioning the role of religious organizations reflect, at most, Congress' considered judgment that religious organizations can help solve the problems to which the Act is addressed. When, as Congress found, prevention of adolescent sexual activity and pregnancy depends primarily upon developing close family ties, it seems sensible for Congress to recognize that religious organizations can influence family life. To the extent that this congressional recognition has any effect of advancing religion, the effect is, at most, "incidental and remote." Moreover, to the extent that religious institutions, along with other types of organizations, are allowed to participate as recipients of federal funds, nothing on the Act's face suggests that it is anything but neutral with respect to the grantee's status as a sectarian or purely secular institution. The possibility that AFLA grants may go to religious institutions that can be considered "pervasively sectarian" is not sufficient to conclude that no grants whatsoever can be given to religious organizations. Nor does the Act necessarily have the effect of advancing religion because religiously affiliated AFLA grantees will be providing educational and counseling services to adolescents; because it authorizes "teaching" by religious grantees on matters that are fundamental elements of religious doctrine; because of any "crucial symbolic link" between government and religion; or because the statute lacks an express provision preventing the use of federal funds for religious purposes. Pp. 487 U. S. 604-615.

(c) With regard to the third Lemon factor, the Act does not create an excessive entanglement of church and state. The monitoring of AFLA grants is necessary to ensure that public money is to be spent in the way that Congress intended, and in a way that comports with the Establishment Clause. However, there is no reason to assume that the religious

Page 487 U. S. 591

organizations which may receive AFLA grants are "pervasively sectarian" in the same sense as parochial schools have been held to be in cases finding excessive "entanglement." There is accordingly no reason to fear that the less intensive monitoring involved here will cause the Government to intrude unduly in the day-to-day operations of the religiously affiliated grantees. Pp. 487 U. S. 615-618.

2. The case is remanded for further consideration of whether the statute, as applied, violates the Establishment Clause. Pp. 487 U. S. 618-624.

(a) Appellees have standing to raise the claim that the AFLA is unconstitutional as applied. Federal taxpayers have standing to raise Establishment Clause claims against exercises of congressional power under the taxing and spending power of Article I, § 8, of the Constitution. Flast v. Cohen, 392 U. S. 83. There is no merit to appellants' contention that a challenge to the AFLA "as applied" is really a challenge to executive action. The claim that AFLA funds are being used improperly by individual grantees is not any less a challenge to congressional taxing and spending power simply because the funding authorized by Congress has flowed through and been administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U. S. 464; and Schlesinger v. Reservists Committee to Stop the War, 418 U. S. 208, distinguished. Pp. 418 U. S. 618-620.

(b) On the merits of the "as applied" challenge, the District Court did not follow the proper approach in assessing appellees' claim that the Secretary is making grants under the Act that violate the Establishment Clause. Although the record contains evidence of specific incidents of impermissible behavior by grantees, the case must be remanded for consideration of the evidence insofar as it sheds light on the manner in which the statute is presently being administered. If the Court concludes on the evidence presented that grants are being made by the Secretary in violation of the Establishment Clause, an appropriate remedy would be to require the Secretary to withdraw the approval of such grants. Pp. 487 U. S. 620-622.

657 F.Supp. 1547, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 487 U. S. 622. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined, post, p. 487 U. S. 624. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 487 U. S. 625.

Page 487 U. S. 593

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