Zorach v. Clauson

Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States considered a school district allowing students to leave school for part of the day to receive religious instruction.[1]

Zorach v. Clauson
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued January 31 – February 1, 1952
Decided April 28, 1952
Full case nameZorach, et al. v. Clauson, et al., constituting the Board of Education of the City of New York, et al.
Citations343 U.S. 306 (more)
72 S. Ct. 679; 96 L. Ed. 954; 1952 U.S. LEXIS 2773
Case history
Prior303 N.Y. 161, 100 N.E.2d 463 (1951); probable jurisdiction noted, 72 S. Ct. 232 (1951).
Released time programs are acceptable if the instruction takes place away from the school campus, for 1 hour per week, and with no public funding.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Fred M. Vinson
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · Stanley F. Reed
Felix Frankfurter · William O. Douglas
Robert H. Jackson · Harold H. Burton
Tom C. Clark · Sherman Minton
Case opinions
MajorityDouglas, joined by Vinson, Reed, Burton, Clark, Minton
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I


New York State law permitted schools to allow some students to leave school during school hours for purposes of religious instruction or practice while requiring others to stay in school. Accordingly, students in New York City were allowed to leave only on written request of their guardians but the schools did not fund or otherwise assist in the development of these programs. The Greater New York Coordinating Committee on Released Time of Jews, Protestants and Roman Catholics shared their attendance with New York City Department of Education to prevent students from playing hooky, however.[1] Several parents sued the district for providing official sanction for religious instruction.


The Supreme Court upheld the arrangement by finding that it did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the instruction was not held within the school building and received no public funds. William O. Douglas, writing for the majority, reasoned that "this 'released time' program involves neither religious instruction in public school classrooms nor the expenditure of public funds.... The case is therefore unlike McCollum v. Board of Education."[1]

Three Justices dissented from the decision; Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter and Robert H. Jackson considered the law unconstitutional. All three cited McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)[2] and believed that the Court did not adequately distinguish between the circumstances in McCollum and the ones in Zorach. Jackson's dissent was especially strong: "Today's judgment will be more interesting to students of psychology and of the judicial processes than to students of constitutional law."[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952).
  2. ^ McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948).

Further readingEdit

  • Sorauf, Frank J. (1959). "Zorach v. Clauson: The Impact of a Supreme Court Decision". American Political Science Review. 53 (3): 777–791. doi:10.2307/1951943. JSTOR 1951943.

External linksEdit