Nebraska State Constitution Article VII-11

Article VII-11


Appropriation of public funds; handicapped children; sectarian instruction; religious test of teacher or student.

Notwithstanding any other provision in the Constitution, appropriation of public funds shall not be made to any school or institution of learning not owned or exclusively controlled by the state or a political subdivision thereof; Provided, that the Legislature may provide that the state or any political subdivision thereof may contract with institutions not wholly owned or controlled by the state or any political subdivision to provide for educational or other services for the benefit of children under the age of twenty-one years who are handicapped, as that term is from time to time defined by the Legislature, if such services are nonsectarian in nature.

All public schools shall be free of sectarian instruction.

The state shall not accept money or property to be used for sectarian purposes; Provided, that the Legislature may provide that the state may receive money from the federal government and distribute it in accordance with the terms of any such federal grants, but no public funds of the state, any political subdivision, or any public corporation may be added thereto.

A religious test or qualification shall not be required of any teacher or student for admission or continuance in any school or institution supported in whole or in part by public funds or taxation.


  • Neb. Const. art. VIII, sec. 11 (1875);
  • Amended 1920, Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, No. 23;
  • Transferred by Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, art. VII, sec. 11;
  • Amended 1972, Laws 1971, LB 656, sec. 1;
  • Amended 1976, Laws 1976, LB 666, sec. 1.
  • Note: The third paragraph in this section has been reinstated pursuant to Cunningham v. Exon, 207 Neb. 513, 300 N.W.2d 6 (1980).


1. Grant of public funds

2. Constitutionality of certain practices

3. Miscellaneous

1. Grant of public funds

The provisions of section 79-487 authorizing the transportation of nonprofit private school students on public school buses do not violate the provisions of this section in that they do not appropriate public funds to a nonpublic institution. State ex rel. Bouc v. School Dist. of City of Lincoln, 211 Neb. 731, 320 N.W.2d 472 (1982).

No appropriation or grant of public funds or property shall be made to any educational institution which is not owned and controlled by the state or a governmental subdivision thereof. Gaffney v. State Department of Education, 192 Neb. 358, 220 N.W.2d 550 (1974).

2. Constitutionality of certain practices

An act which indirectly benefits private institutions through public grants to students is unconstitutional. State ex rel. Rogers v. Swanson, 192 Neb. 125, 219 N.W.2d 726 (1974).

It is not unconstitutional for a public school district to lease classrooms in a church or other sectarian building if the classrooms are under the control and operation of the public school authorities and the instruction offered is nonsectarian. State ex rel. School Dist. of Hartington v. State Board of Education, 188 Neb. 1, 195 N.W.2d 161 (1972).

Reading from Bible, singing of hymns and offering prayer, in accordance with doctrines of religious organizations, is prohibited in public schools by this section. State ex rel. Freeman v. Scheve, 65 Neb. 853, 91 N.W. 846 (1902), judgment adhered to 65 Neb. 876, 93 N.W. 169 (1903).

3. Miscellaneous

The age of twenty-one years is reached upon a person's twenty-first birthday, and, therefore, the term "under the age of twenty-one years" excludes any persons who have reached their twenty-first birthday. Monahan v. School Dist. No. 1 of Douglas County, 229 Neb. 139, 425 N.W.2d 624 (1988).

This section does not prohibit the State from doing business or contracting with private institutions in fulfilling a governmental duty and furthering a public purpose. State ex rel. Creighton Univ. v. Smith, 217 Neb. 682, 353 N.W.2d 267 (1984).

Adoption of 1976 amendment to allow for state contracting with institutions not wholly owned or controlled by the state or any political subdivision for nonsectarian services for handicapped children did not repeal third full paragraph of original section 11, which forbids state to match federal grants to nonpublic institutions with public money. Cunningham v. Exon, 207 Neb. 513, 300 N.W.2d 6 (1980).

A citizen taxpayer has standing to maintain an action for a declaratory judgment to challenge the accuracy and validity of the proclamation, publication, and incorporation of an amendment to this Article and section of the Constitution of Nebraska. Cunningham v. Exon, 202 Neb. 563, 276 N.W.2d 213 (1979).

Legislature cannot authorize donations by public corporations for religious or charitable purposes. United Community Services v. Omaha Nat. Bank, 162 Neb. 786, 77 N.W.2d 576 (1956).

Section is applicable to school in part sectarian. State ex rel. Public School Dist. No. 6, Cedar County v. Taylor, 122 Neb. 454, 240 N.W. 573 (1932).