Bishop of Charleston v. Adams

Last modified 2023.07.06

  • Status Closed
  • Type Amicus
  • Court U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court
  • Issues Public Schools, Religious Minorities, Taxpayer Funding of Religion

Case Documents

The South Carolina Constitution includes a clause, known as a no-aid clause, that prohibits the state from using public funds to directly benefit private schools. In April 2021, a Catholic bishop and an association of private colleges and universities sued the state, arguing that South Carolina’s no-aid clause was motivated by discriminatory intent—including animus toward Catholics—and therefore violated the U.S. Constitution.

In September 2021, both sides filed summary-judgment motions in the trial court. In October 2021, Americans United filed an amicus brief in support of the state, defending the constitutionality of the state’s no-aid clause by detailing its history and explaining that it was not rooted in anti-Catholic animus.

In February 2022, the district court granted the state’s summary-judgment motion. On the plaintiffs’ claims of religious discrimination, it ruled that the no-aid clause was not based on discriminatory intent and did not have a discriminatory impact on religious schools. 

The plaintiffs appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. There, in May 2022, Americans United filed another amicus brief in support of the state’s no-aid clause. We explained that South Carolina’s no-aid clause was not motivated by anti-Catholic animus but was instead enacted to safeguard funding for the state’s developing public-education system and to prevent religious division. And at any rate, the no-aid clause was amended in 1972 to cover secular private schools, meaning that even if the previous version had been tainted by animus, the amended version was not.

On July 6, 2023, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the case as moot because all the funds sought by the plaintiff schools have already been disbursed.

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