Abington School District v. Schempp (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: A landmark Supreme Court ruling addresses the issue of Bible reading in the public schools.
Summary of Event
Like the Progressive Era and the New Deal, the 1960’s in the United States have assumed the stature of an important, almost classic, age of reform and liberalism. Civil rights legislation, the Great Society programs, and antiwar protests were all symptomatic of a general quest for greater justice. Unlike earlier episodes of reform, however, the changes of the 1960’s often were introduced almost in defiance of popular opinion. Although liberal measures often resulted from, and received the support of, vocal and active groups, just as often they did not reflect the goals of the “average” citizen, nor was there the kind of massive endorsement of reform that Franklin Roosevelt had enjoyed in 1936. One of the prime examples of these unpopular reforms was the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding prayer and Bible reading in the public schools.
The issue of Bible reading in public schools reached the Supreme Court in 1963, in two cases emanating from the adjoining states of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Pennsylvania law required that ten verses from the Bible be read without comment at the beginning of each public school day. Although participation in the exercises was voluntary, Edward and Sidney Schempp and their children, Roger and Donna, members of a Unitarian church, filed suit in...
(The entire section is 1535 words.)
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Abington School District v. Schempp (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the Lord's Prayer and Bible reading in public schools in Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 83 S. Ct. 1560, 10 L. Ed. 2d 844. The decision came one year after the Court had struck down, in ENGEL V. VITALE, a state-authored prayer that was recited by public school students each morning (370 U.S. 421, 82S. Ct. 1261, 8 L. Ed. 2d 601 ). Engel had opened the floodgates; Schempp ensured that a steady flow of anti-school prayer rulings would continue into the future. Schempp was in many ways a repeat of Engel: the religious practices with which it was concerned were nominally different, but the logic used to find them unconstitutional was the same. This time, the majority went one step further, issuing the first concrete test for determining violations of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.
The Schempp ruling involved two cases: its namesake and Murray v. Curlett, 228 Md. 239, 179 A. 2d 698 (Md. 1962). The Schempp case concerned a 1949 Pennsylvania law that forced public schools to start each day with a reading of ten Bible verses (24 Pa. Stat. § 15-1516). The law did not specify which version of the Bible should be usedor instance, it could be the Catholic Douay text or the Jewish version of the Old Testament. But local school officials only bought the Protestant King James...
(The entire section is 1253 words.)
Abington School District v. Schempp (Great American Court Cases)
Legal Citation: 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania
Edward Lewis Schempp
That a Pennsylvania law requiring daily Bible readings in public schools violates the First Amendment requirement of church-state separation.
Chief Lawyers for Appellant
John D. Killian III and Philip H. Ward III
Chief Lawyer for Appellee
Henry W. Sawyer III
Justices for the Court
Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., Tom C. Clark (writing for the Court), William O. Douglas, Arthur Goldberg, John Marshall Harlan II, Earl Warren, Byron R. White
Date of Decision
17 June 1963
The Supreme Court struck down the Pennsylvania statute by a vote of 8-1.
For the second time in two years, the Court headed by Chief Justice Warren handed down a decision prohibiting religion in the public schools. This time, because of the hostile response to the first...
(The entire section is 1000 words.)