Does Estab Cl bar child support award that includes payment for c
hild's religious schooling?
VOLOKH at mail.law.ucla.edu
Thu Feb 17 19:51:28 PST 2000
During their marriage, the Steffens apparently (so the trial court
found) sent their kids to Catholic schools. After the divorce, Robert
Steffen was ordered to pay for half the costs of this schooling, above the
usual child support guidelines.
Robert objects on the grounds that this violates (1) the Estab Cl
and (2) the Iowa Const provision that reads "The General Assembly shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; nor shall any person be compelled to attend any place of
worship, pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing places
of worship, or the maintenance of any minister, or ministry." What's the
right result? Does the right result depend on whether Robert has sincerely
concluded that a Catholic education is no longer good for his kids, or has
sincerely departed from Catholicism?
This is a real case, In re the Marriage of Steffen, 2000 WL 145038
(Iowa App. Feb. 9), but the court remanded the case on other grounds without
reaching the constitutional question.
Since I take the view that equal treatment is not establishment, and
that equal treatment is in fact commanded by the 1st Am notwithstanding
state constitutional provisions to the contrary, I think there's no
constitutional problem here (assuming that the trial court would have issued
such a support order regardless of whether the school was religious). What
do those who take more of a no-aid position think? After all, the court
order asks an unwilling person to pay money earmarked for a religious
education -- and not just in the attenuated sense that taxpayer money
indirectly flows to such an education under neutral choice programs.
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