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AGO 1954 No. 356 - December 03, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

MAY THE STATE LEGISLATURE APPROPRIATE MONEY FOR THE EMPLOYMENT OF A CHAPLAIN AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF A CHAPEL AT THE STATE SCHOOL FOR GIRLS?

The State School for Girls was intended by the Legislature to be an institution of a reformatory character, and is not within the prohibition of Article I, Section 11, of the State Constitution as amended; and is within the proviso of the constitutional amendment, enabling the Legislature to employ a Chaplain for state reformatories and, by implication, to provide such Chaplain with the means of rendering religious services.

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

                                                                December 3, 1954

Honorable Fred R. Dickson
Superintendent of Public Institutions
State of Washington
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 356

 

Attention:  !ttVan R. Hinkle, Supervisor

            Division of Children & Youth Services

Dear Sir:

            By your letter, previously acknowledged, you ask our opinion on two questions, which you state as follows:

            (1) "May a Chaplain be employed at the State School for Girls?"

            (2) "May the state legislature appropriate money for a Chapel at the State School for Girls at Grand Mound?"

            It is our conclusion that both of your inquiries should be answered in the affirmative.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In determining the questions presented, reference must be made to the 4th Amendment of the State Constitution, which amends Article I, Section 11, approved by the people in November of the year of 1904.  It provides:

            "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.  Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual, and no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property on account of religion; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.  No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment.  Provided, however, That this article shall not be so construed as to forbid the employment by the state of a chaplain for the state penitentiary, and for such of the state reformatories as in the discretion of the legislature may deem justified.  No religious qualification shall be required for any public office or employment, nor shall any person be incompetent as a witness or juror, in consequence of his opinion on matters of religion, nor be questioned in any court of justice touching his religious belief to affect the weight of his testimony."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The answers to your questions lie in whether the State School for Girls comes within the exemption of reformatories from the constitutional prohibition against the expenditure of public monies for religious worship, etc.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The proviso exempting reformatories from the constitutional prohibition underlined above, has not been at issue for interpretation before our Supreme Court; therefore, we must look to the statutes on the subject to determine whether the legislature intended that the State School for Girls was to come within the classification of reformatories.

            The State School for Girls was authorized and established by the state legislature in accordance with the provisions of chapter 157, Laws of 1913.  In the body of the act of the legislature above cited, no reference is made as to the type of classification in which the subject institution is to be placed.  However, the title states:  "An Act establishing a State School for Girls in conjunction with the Washington State Training School.  * * *."

            "In determining the intent of an Act when it is passed by the Legislature, resort may be had to the title."  State ex rel. Seymour v. Superior Court, 168 Wash. 361, at page 364.  The implication to be drawn from the language chosen by the legislature in the title above quoted, is that the State School for Girls, being established "in conjunction with the Washington State Training School," is that the State School for Girls was to be of the same type as the Washington State Training School.

            The Washington State Training School was established in accordance with authority granted by the legislature of 1890, found in the Session Laws, at page 271.  Section 1 provides:

            "That areform school be and is hereby established, to be known as the Washington State Reform School."  (Emphasis supplied)

            and section 2 provides that:

            "Said school to be for the keeping and reformatory training of all youths between the ages of eight and eighteen, * * *."  (Emphasis supplied)

            It is manifest that the legislature intended that the Washington State Training School was intended to be classified as a reformatory.  We, therefore,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] conclude that the legislature in having stated, upon establishing the State School for Girls that it was to be in conjunction with the Washington State Training School, that it was also to be classified as a reformatory and is, therefore, eligible to employ a chaplain, if so authorized by the legislature.  Having found that the State School for Girls is an institution of a reformatory character, not being within the prohibition of Article I, section 11, of the State Constitution as amended, it necessarily follows, by implication, that if the State School for Girls is authorized by the legislature to employ a chaplain, it may also supply him with the means to render religious services, which would include a chapel.

            Hoping that we have been of assistance to you in this matter, we remain

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


STEPHEN C. WAY
Assistant Attorney General

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