Mitchell v. Helms

Becket Role:


Decision Date:
September 27, 2000
Deciding Court:
U.S. Supreme Court


Case Summary

In a case challenging the constitutionality of a government school aid program as applied to parochial schools, the Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which had found that the program violated the Establishment Clause.

Justice Thomas’s plurality opinion (joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Kennedy) relied on the Becket Fund’s amicus brief, which described the anti-Catholic animus motivating state Blaine Amendments (forbidding state funds from supporting religious institutions).

In rejecting a method of analyzing an Establishment Clause challenge by asking whether the benefitted institution is “pervasively sectarian,” Justice Thomas’s opinion echoed the sentiments of Becket’s amicus brief: “hostility to aid to pervasively sectarian schools has a shameful pedigree that we do not hesitate to disavow” and “[t]his doctrine, born of bigotry, should be buried now.”

Michael McConnell was counsel in this case.


Case Information

Becket Role:
Case Start Date:
December 2, 1985
Deciding Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Original Court:
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Supreme Court Status:
Practice Area(s):