School District Sued for Contracting with Religious Institution

aclj featureCECE HEIL, ACLJ

The ACLJ has filed an amicus brief with the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to protect the rights of school districts to partner with religious private schools. In July, a federal district court in Tennessee ruled that a Tennessee school board violated the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause by contracting with Kingswood School, a religious private school, to run the school board’s alternative school system. Importantly, Kingswood did not require its alternative students to receive religious instruction or education, and the school board partnered with Kingswood for financial—not religious—reasons.

In response, the ACLJ’s brief argues that the Establishment Clause does not prohibit all relationships between government and religious organizations, so long as the government remains neutral toward religion. Because the school board was motivated by financial, not religious, reasons, and because religious instruction was not forced on alternative students, the school board remained neutral towards religion. Furthermore, a reasonable observer would understand that the school board contracted with Kingswood for economic reasons, and the partnership cannot be reasonably viewed as an endorsement of religion.

The ACLJ remains hopeful that the Sixth Circuit will reverse the district court and allow Kingswood to continue operating the alternative school program. Regardless, we continue to defend the religious and constitutional liberties of Americans across the country.


The Moral Liberal recommends Jay Sekulow’s: Witnessing Their Faith: Religious Influence on Supreme Court Justices and Their Opinions


CeCe HeilCeCe Heil is a Senior Counsel for the ACLJ specializing in public policy and global legal matters including the United Nations.


Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.