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Curran v. Lee


decided: October 3, 1973.


Lumbard, Friendly and Feinberg, Circuit Judges.

Author: Per Curiam

John F. Curran, Jr., appeals pro-se from a judgment in the District of Connecticut, entered January 17, 1973, which denied his application for an injunction against the New Haven, Connecticut St. Patrick's Day parade. Curran contends that aid by a city to a parade named for a religious figure violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. We affirm.

Every year on the Sunday afternoon before St. Patrick's Day (March 17), a St. Patrick's Day parade takes place in New Haven. Several of the city's streets are closed to traffic during the parade, and the city contributes modest amounts to the parade pursuant to its charter.*fn1 It appears that $1,000 was given in 1969, $1,000 in 1970, $1,200 in 1971, and $1,200 in 1972. New Haven also gives annual aid to the Columbus Day parade and to the Freddie Fixer parade (a tribute to the efforts of minority groups to clean depressed areas of the city).

On March 5, 1969, John F. Curran, Jr., seeking an injunction against the St. Patrick's Day parade, brought a pro-se action against Mayor Richard C. Lee,*fn2 the City of New Haven,*fn3 and its agents in the district court. The complaint alleged that the parade was a religious procession and that the use of city streets, equipment, employees, and money to aid it violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Curran is a resident of New Haven and alleged that he had been unsuccessful in efforts at public hearings to prevent appropriations to the St. Patrick's Day parade.

Defendants responded to the complaint with a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, in which they included a ground of lack of standing, which motion Judge Zampano denied on June 18, 1969.*fn4 The defendants then filed an answer denying the allegations of the complaint. Subsequently, Curran amended his complaint to request an injunction against all religious processions in New Haven streets and parks, except customary funeral processions.

On December 11, 1972, a hearing was held before Chief Judge Blumenfeld. At this hearing neither party introduced witnesses, but only submitted further argument. Chief Judge Blumenfeld reserved decision on the matter, and on January 17, 1973 filed an unpublished opinion in which he held that Curran was not entitled to relief.

Curran would have us hold that any aid by New Haven to the St. Patrick's Day parade is an unconstitutional act respecting an establishment of religion merely because St. Patrick is known as an apostle of the Roman Catholic faith.*fn5 This we cannot do. The practice of honoring St. Patrick may be rooted in religious belief, but a parade named after him is not necessarily a religious procession. It is quite possible that the parade has evolved into a secular celebration by Irish-Americans and their friends. Cf. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S. Ct. 1101, 6 L. Ed. 2d 393 (1961).

The record in this case fails to give a description of the New Haven parade.*fn6 The degree of clergy or church participation is unknown. Similarly, the record fails to tell us whether the bands (if any) play religious or non-religious music, whether the floats (if any) depict religious or non-religious events, and whether the speeches made (if any) are on religious or non-religious topics.

Curran has not met his burden of showing that the aid given the parade violates the Establishment Clause. On this record we cannot tell what is the purpose of granting aid to the parade, what is the effect of granting such aid, and whether granting such aid fosters excessive governmental entanglement with religion. See Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-613, 29 L. Ed. 2d 745, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971). Accordingly, we find no error in the district court's dismissal of the complaint.*fn7 Cf. Hunt v. McNair, 413 U.S. 734, 93 S. Ct. 2868, 37 L. Ed. 2d 923 (1973); Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672, 91 S. Ct. 2091, 29 L. Ed. 2d 790 (1971); Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 88 S. Ct. 1923, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1060 (1968).




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