State ex rel. McLemore v. Clarksville School

636 S.W.2d 706 (1982)

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State ex rel. McLemore v. Clarksville School

Tennessee Supreme Court
636 S.W.2d 706 (1982)

Facts

The Clarksville School of Theology (Clarksville) (defendant) offered Ph.D. degrees in the study of theology. Clarksville catered primarily to ministers. In July 1975, the State of Tennessee (plaintiff) passed the Tennessee Higher Education Act (the act), establishing minimum standards for degree-granting institutions. Clarksville had 80 students and a yearly budget of $37,000. The curriculum at Clarksville consisted of only theology classes; it did not offer any classes in math, science, or other subjects. Clarksville maintained that it was unable to comply with the act’s requirements, and that students would not attend if they did not receive an educational degree. After Clarksville’s application was denied by the Tennessee Education Commission, Clarksville agreed to cease operating after the following year. However, Clarksville continued to operate and issue degrees while acknowledging that it was not complying with the act. The Tennessee attorney general brought an action against Clarksville, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent it from granting degrees until it met the act’s requirements. Clarksville contended that being forced to comply with the act constituted an infringement on its right of free exercise under the First Amendment. A trial court disagreed, finding that forcing Clarksville to comply with the act did not affect Clarksville’s religious beliefs or practices. Clarksville appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brock, J.)

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