St. Louis University Law Journal
The decision upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Mueller v. Allen helds a new dawn in establishment clause jurisprudence. This five-to-four decision, written for the majority by Justice Rehnquist, upheld a Minnesota statute permitting taxpayers to deduct the tuition, textbook, transportation, and instructional material expenses of their children when calculating their state tax liability. By this decision, the Court has cleared the way for an accommodation between church and state that more equitably recognizes the principles and values that the religion clauses were intended to protect.
Following a review of the history of the establishment clause, tuition tax credits, and the decision and effect of Mueller, it becomes apparent that the decision of the Supreme Court in Mueller correctly balanced the scales in favor of voluntarism in religious belief. It correctly weighed all the relevant factors present in the case finding a state tuition tax deduction constitutional.
By weighing the value of tuition tax deductions against the costs incurred by parents of nonpublic school children, the Court has more equitably aligned the principles of neutrality with first amendment values. The Court’s holding that this method of analyzing relevant establishment clause policies better protected the overarching value of voluntarism was correct. It more fully implemented parents’ rights to educate their children in a religious setting in a society in which government plays a more pervasive role than in the past.
Michael S. Ariens, Mueller v. Allen: A Fairer Approach to the Establishment Clause, 29 St. Louis U. L.J. 115 (1984).