In a victory for the Reagan administration, the United States Supreme Court Wednesday upheld a law providing for federal government payments to religious groups to counsel teenagers to abstain from sex. The court's 5-to-4 decision reinstated a key part of the so-called Chastity Act, a 1981 law designed to encourage teenagers to avoid sex before marriage.
Under the law, the government has given more than $100 million to religious organizations, especially Roman Catholic charities, and other groups for counseling and various programs.
``The act does not create an excessive entanglement of church and state,'' Chief Justice William Rehnquist said for the court majority.
``Although the act increased the role of religious organizations, the challenged provisions were also motivated by other, entirely legitimate secular concerns,'' he said in rejecting arguments that the law advanced a religious view.
Opponents of the law challenged it in court as an unconstitutional effort to use federal money to subsidize religious indoctrination in order to stop premarital sex, abortion, and birth control.
The law, which bars funds for groups that provide abortions or abortion counseling or referral, encourages self-discipline as a form of birth control.
In other rulings:
The justices expanded the way employees can use statistical evidence to prove illegal discrimination with an 8-to-0 vote in what may be their most important civil-rights decision of the year. The ruling has a direct impact on numerous discrimination lawsuits filed by women and minorities.
The court ruled 5 to 3 that non-union employees of private employers may not be forced to pay the equivalent of union dues if some of that money is used for activities not directly related to collective bargaining.