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Alton T. Lemon, RIP

May 27, 2013

The “Lemon test” is one of the standards used by courts in the U.S. to determine whether separation of church and state is being respected.  It comes from the 1971 Lemon vs. Kurtzman ruling from the Supreme Court, in which separation was judged by requirements that:

  1. The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;
  2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
  3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion

In that case, the Court ruled that  Pennsylvania’s 1968 Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which allowed the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to reimburse nonpublic schools for the salaries of teachers who taught secular material in these nonpublic schools, secular textbooks and secular instructional materials, violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Civil rights activist Alton T Lemon, whose objection that support of religious schools gave rise to that critical and important 1971 Supreme Court decision, died on May 4 in Jenkintown, Pa.  RIP, Mr. Lemon.

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