Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Bradfield v. Roberts

Bradfield v. Roberts was one of the earliest challenges to government action on the grounds that it violated the Establishment Clause. In this case, Congress appropriated funds to a church-run hospital in the District of Columbia to be used for the care of veterans. The Court held that the appropriation did not violate the Establishment Clause because the hospital was itself created by an act of Congress. It was immaterial, the Court found, that the hospital was staffed by members of the Catholic Church because their authority was circumscribed by the act of Congress. The purpose of establishing the hospital was not sectarian; rather, it was to provide care to the sick and disabled persons in the District of Columbia. Because they had a secular purpose, the statutes that created the hospital and provided for its funding did not violate the Establishment Clause.

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