The village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, New York is populated entirely by practitioners of Satmar Hasidim, a strict form of Judaism. The Satmar Hasidics, incorporated the village in 1977, and the boundaries included only the 320 acres owned and inhabited by Satmar Hasidics. Two private, gender-segregated religious schools provided the education for most of the village's children. However, these schools were not able to offer special services to handicapped children who are entitled under state and federal law to special education services even when enrolled in private schools. Thus, in 1984 the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District began providing special services for the handicapped children of Kiryas Joel at an annex to one of the private, religious schools. Monroe-Woodbury ended this arrangement one year later, however, in response to two United States Supreme Court decisions. The handicapped children were thus forced to attend public schools outside the village to receive special education services. Parents of most of these children withdrew them from the public schools because of the "panic, fear and trauma [the children] suffered in leaving their own community and being with people whose ways were so different." By 1989, only one child from Kiryas Joel was attending public schools; the other handicapped children either received privately funded services or went without. In the wake of this problem, the New York Legislature passed a statute creating a separate school district for the village of Kiryas Joel. The Kiryas Joel Village School District operated only a special education program for handicapped children. The other children stayed in their respective parochial schools, relying on the new school district for transportation, remedial education, and health and welfare services. In response to the enactment of Chapter 748, Louis Grumet and others brought an action against the State Education Department and various state officials challenging the statute as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The State Supreme Court for Albany County allowed the Kiryas Joel Village School District and Monroe-Woodbury to intervene as party defendants and accepted the parties' stipulation discontinuing the action against the original state defendants. On summary judgment, the trial court ruled for the plaintiffs, finding that the statute failed all three prongs of the Lemon Test, and was thus unconstitutional. A divided New York Appellate Division affirmed on the ground that the statute was unconstitutional because it had the primary effect of advancing religion. The state court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari, and affirmed the lower court, holding that because the statute was "tantamount to an allocation of political power on a religious criterion and neither presupposes nor requires governmental impartiality toward religion", it violated the prohibition on establishment.
Moore, John Kevin
"Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet: A Missed Opportunity for the Supreme Court to Clarify Establishment Clause Analysis,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 46
, Article 8.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol46/iss3/8