The Supreme Court: Three Pence & Parochial Schools

Among the Founding Fathers, James Madison was the man who cared most about building an impregnable wall between church and state in the First Amendment. As he observed, "the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one [religious] establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever."

In federal court last year, New York City Housewife Florence Flast and six other taxpayers argued that far more than three pence of their tax money was involved in a federal aid-to-education program that paid...