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AGO 1957 No. 82 - June 13, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON ‑- RELIGION ‑- PRESENTATION OF RELIGIOUS PROGRAM

The University of Washington may not authorize and assist in presenting a religious program in which University personnel participate in meetings in the classrooms.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   June 13, 1957

Honorable Wilbur G. Hallauer
State Senator, First District
P.O. Box 1398
Oroville, Washington                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 82


Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your request for an opinion on whether or not, under the constitution of the state of Washington, the University of Washington may authorize and assist in the presentation of a program on the campus wherein representatives of various religious groups and University personnel speak and participate in meetings in the classrooms for the purpose of promoting certain religious attitudes.

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            It is our understanding that the program involves the use of campus classrooms and publication facilities.  In addition, members of the faculty participate in the instruction and discussions, and actual classroom time is used for the development of the program.

            The two pertinent provisions of the constitution are as follows:

            Article IX, § 4:

            ". . . All schools maintained or supported wholly or in part by public funds shall be forever free from sectarian control or influence."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The Fourth Amendment to the Washington state constitution (Article I, § 11) provides in part as follows:

            ". . . No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to anyreligious worship, exercise or instruction, . . . "  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In the case ofState ex rel. Dearle v. Frazier, 102 Wash. 369, the supreme court discussed the provisions of Article I, § 11, and Article IX, § 4,supra, in a long and comprehensive analysis of the problem.  The court stated in part as follows:

            "The framers of the constitution were not content to declare that our public schools should be kept free from sectarian control or influence; they went further and made it certain that their declaration should not be overcome by changing sentiments or opinions.  They declared that 'no public money or property shall ever be appropriated or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction,' and in this respec tour constitution differs from any other that has been called to our attention.  [p. 374]

            ". . .

            "But these cases are based upon provisions that go no further than art. 9, § 4, of our constitution.  Their purpose is to prevent the teaching of any of the beliefs, creeds, doctrines, opinions, or dogmas of any sect, and to prevent the appropriation of money for parochial and denominational schools, a privilege that had been abused by the legislatures of some of the states, and of which the people were no doubt mindful at the time our constitution was adopted.  In the light of other constitutions, the abuses in other states, and the evident purpose of the framers of the constitution to save some of the questions which had there arisen, there can be no doubt that more was intended than a simple declaration that our schools should be kept free of sectarian influences.  Article I, § 11, is all significant.  The words 'No public money shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction' are sweeping and comprehensive.  [p. 375]

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            ". . . The question then was‑-and the people who adopted the constitution were so advised‑-whether we should adopt a constitution which provided in terms that no religious instruction should ever be a part, directly or indirectly, of the curriculum of our schools."  [p. 381] (Emphasis supplied.)

            In theDearle case, supra, the court held that the giving of credits for Bible study done outside of school, the furnishing by the school authorities of an outline of study, and the giving of examinations and grading of papers by the school teachers violated the provisions of Article I, § 11, of the state constitution providing that no public money shall be applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction inasmuch as public funds were used to pay the salaries of the teachers and the time of the teachers was used to conduct examinations and grade papers.

            Clearly under the factual situation outlined to us, the presentation of such a program constitutes the teaching of the beliefs, creeds, or doctrines of particular sects and would be a violation of Article IX, § 4, as discussed in theDearle case,supra.  In addition, the obvious purpose of the program is to instruct the students directly, as well as indirectly, in religious matters during classroom hours, and thus it falls within the constitutional prohibition of the Fourth Amendment (Article I, § 11) being the use of public money and property for religious worship, exercise or instruction.

            We trust this information will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


JANE DOWDLE SMITH
Assistant Attorney General

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