Equality & Equal Protection Outlines

Equal Protection VI – The Poor & Education

I.     Legal equality and “No titles of Nobility.”

    A.     Law of nature.
      1.     “You shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the rich.” Lev. 19:15.
      2.     Legal classifications based on wealth are comparable to taking a bribe, and are prohibited.
      3.     Men have no authority to meet the moral obligation to help the poor by forcing contributions to be made to the poor by taxpayers. Such forced charity is a legal non sequitur.
    B.     U.S. Constitutional heritage. The United States, and the several states, are constitutionally prohibited from granting any title of nobility.
      1.     Textual provisions.
        a.     Art. I, Sec. 9, Cl. 8.
        b.     Art. I, Sec. 10, Cl. 1.
      2.     The prohibition against granting any titles of nobility is the cornerstone of a republican form of government.
        a.     “Titles of nobility” defined: A “nobility” is any division of the people created by law or government grant which confers a privilege or benefit on one group of people that the rest do not enjoy.
      3.     The heritage has been lost.
        a.     Laws favoring the poor. Legal classifications which favor some people over others based on economic status in determining the eligibility to receive government funds or privileges, are a de jure title of nobility.
        b.     Laws discriminating on the basis of economic status. Legal classifications which penalize people on the basis of wealth are likewise invalid (e.g., progressive tax rates).
        c.     Federal Statutory entitlements based on economic status.
    C.     The problem of “special interests.”
      1.     Madison: The need for rules to derive from the great body of society.
      2.     Backus: The nature of republican government:
        a.     Prohibition of economic “entitlements.”
        b.     Prevent development of any privileged class.
      3.     The de facto creation of American nobility. Grants of aid to special interest groups and government entitlement programs generally constitute de facto titles of nobility.
        a.     The problem of special interest groups.
        b.     A deterioration of equal protection.
        c.     Federal pensions and subsidies.
          (1)     Avoidance of returning civil officers to a private station.
          (2)     Government is no longer for the common good.

II.     Modern view of wealth and poverty.

    A.     Legal classifications based on wealth are not inherently suspect, but may serve valid governmental interests.
    B.     Legal classifications based on wealth are valid if rationally based and free from invidious discrimination.
    C.     Government entitlement programs are a valid means of assisting the poor, and raise no title of nobility issues.
    D.     Civil government may make charitable distributions of funds and such assistance is validly funded by tax revenues.

III.     Government Assistance.

    A.     Welfare. Dandridge v. Williams. S.Ct affirms state law imposing a $250/month limit on AFDC benefits that any family could receive, regardless of family size.
      1.     Stewart (majority):
        a.     Welfare benefits are social and economic concerns, not covered by Bill of Rights.
        b.     State regulation is valid if rationally based and free from invidious discrimination.
        c.     Welfare is not a fundamental right (but neither is it prohibited). [Implicit: Government entitlement programs are a valid means of assisting the poor, and raise no title of nobility issues.]
      2.     Marshall (dissent):
        a.     Welfare benefits defy “easy characterization” for equal protection purposes.
        b.     Importance of any right depends on the character of the classification, the relative importance to the discriminated class of recipients, and the asserted state interests.
    B.     Funding of Abortions. Harris v. McRae. Court upheld the “Hyde Amendment,” which denied public funding for certain medically necessary abortions.
      1.     Stewart (majority):
        a.     Hyde Amendment places no obstacle in path of a woman’s due process right to an abortion.
        b.     Poverty, standing alone, is not a suspect classification for equal protection purposes. Legal classifications based on wealth are not inherently suspect, but may serve valid governmental interests if rationally based.
        c.     Hyde Amendment is rationally related to legitimate government interest (protecting potential life of fetus).
      2.     Brennan (dissent):
        a.     Due process rights are violated whenever state influence “might burden” pregnant woman’s freedom to choose an abortion.
        b.     “Abortion and childbirth . . . are simply two alternative medical methods of dealing with pregnancy.”
        c.     Equates lack of economic choice with a lack of legal choice.
      3.     Marshall (dissent):
        a.     Heightened judicial scrutiny is warranted whenever there is a need to protect groups “subjected to . . . a history of purposeful unequal treatment.”
        b.     The burdened class in this case is “indigent women.”
        c.     Social advancements are achieved through expanded governmental controls.
    C.     Federal Food Stamps. Lyng v. Castillo. Court upholds federal statute which defines “household,” for food stamp purposes, as including siblings who live together, even if they function as separate economic units.
      1.     Stevens (majority):
        a.     The “disadvantaged class” is parents, children and siblings.
        b.     Close relatives are not a suspect or quasi-suspect class, thus, the rational basis standard is appropriate.
        c.     Congress can rationally presume that relatives function as a single economic unit, but that unrelated persons living together function as separate units.
      2.     Marshall (dissent):
        a.     The statute conclusively presumes that related families living in one home do all of their cooking together. This is an unconstitutional presumption.
      3.     Note:
        a.     Prior version of statute which defined household on the basis of legal relation was held unconstitutional by the Court in an earlier opinion.
        b.     New definition of household based on economic presumptions, not legal relations, was upheld.
        c.     So much for the legal integrity of the traditional family.

IV.     Lonang view of educational liberty.

    A.     Education, being a matter which concerns the mind, is a part of God’s reserved jurisdiction. Each individual is accountable solely to God for his thoughts, his mental discipline, and what is learned.
    B.     No one can teach another, or expose them to ideas, except by consent or where God has expressly authorized it.
    C.     Parents have the express inalienable right to direct the education of their minor children in their sole and exclusive discretion without civil interference.
    D.     Civil government may not lawfully direct the education of minor children contrary to the parent’s wishes.
    E.     Civil government may not spend tax revenues to provide educational benefits to the public because public officials lack the jurisdiction to teach (other than to train civil officers for public service).
    F.     There is no right given to anyone to receive any educational benefits.

V.     Modern view of educational rights.

    A.     Public School Financing. San Antonio Independent School Dist. v. Rodriguez. S.Ct sustains the constitutionality of state school system financing based on local property tax revenues against equal protection attack by families in poorer communities.
      1.     Powell (majority):
        a.     Refusal to apply strict scrutiny to diverse and amorphous class unified only by residence in poor districts, i.e., wealth is not a suspect class.
        b.     The Court would assume a legislative role when it varies the degree of scrutiny by what the majority feels is the importance of the claimed interest.
        c.     “The key to discovering whether education is ‘fundamental’ . . . lies in assessing whether there is a right to education explicitly or implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution.” Education is not such a right.
        d.     The states can choose for themselves how to raise and disburse tax revenues.
      2.     Stewart (concurring): The equal protection clause confers no substantive rights and creates no substantive liberties (except for Reynolds v. Sims).
      3.     Brennan (dissent): “Fundamentality” is a function of the importance of a right in terms of its relation, or nexus, with rights which are in fact constitutionally guaranteed.
      4.     Marshall (dissent):
        a.     The task in equal protection review is “to determine the extent to which constitutionally guaranteed rights are dependent on interests not mentioned in the Constitution.”
        b.     Group wealth discrimination calls for “careful judicial scrutiny.”
    B.     Public education of illegal aliens. Plyler v. Doe. S.Ct requires states to provide free public education to “undocumented” school-age children on the same basis as children who are U.S. citizens or legal aliens.
      1.     Brennan (majority):
        a.     An undocumented alien is a “person” for legal purposes. [Note: For inalienable rights purposes, yes, but is education an inalienable right?]
        b.     The state statute is directed at undocumented children, who may not be in the U.S. by their own choice.
        c.     Public education is neither a constitutional right nor a mere social benefit of government. [OK, what is it then?]
        d.     The goal of equal protection is “the abolition of governmental barriers presenting obstacles to advancement on the basis of individual merit.”
        e.     No intention can be imputed to Congress in the federal immigration law to withhold education from these children. [Is that a subject with which the law is concerned?]
        f.     Whatever savings might be achieved by denying these children an education are wholly insubstantial compared to the costs. [It’s easy to spend other people’s money, isn’t it?]
      2.     Marshall (concurring): “An individual’s interest in education is fundamental.”
      3.     Blackmun (concurring): “Denial of an education is the analogue of denial of the right to vote.” [Note: Does that mean illegal aliens can/should vote?]
      4.     Powell (concurring): Denial of education to undocumented children is making them pay for their parents’ misdeeds. [Note: Is lack of an education a form of “punishment”?]
      5.     Burger (dissent):
        a.     This case violates the separation of powers.
        b.     Once it is conceded that illegal aliens are not a suspect class and education is not a fundamental right, only a rational basis test can be used by the Court.
    C.     School transportation fee. Kadrmas v. Dickinson Public Schools. Court upholds state law that permits some school boards, but not others, to assess a transportation fee for busing students to public schools.
      1.     O’Connor (majority):
        a.     Unless a statute provokes strict scrutiny because it interferes with a “fundamental right” or discriminates against a “suspect class,” it need only be rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest.
        b.     Plyler is not applicable here, because no children are being punished for their parents’ conduct.
        c.     There is no constitutionally guaranteed right to bus transportation, so there is no obligation to offer it for free. [Gosh, I wonder where that logic would take us on the “right to education” issue?]
      2.     Marshall (dissent): This is another case of burdening poor families in their pursuit of education. The state law discriminates on the basis of economic status.