Freedom of Religion, Establishment Clause

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What was the ruling in the case of Murray v. Curlett?

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This case is almost never referred to by its own name because it was merged with another case and the two were decided together.  The case is an important landmark case, but it goes by the name of the other case, Abington School District v. Schempp.  The ruling in this case was important because it struck down laws requiring the daily reading of the Bible in public schools. 

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment says that the government cannot make any laws “respecting an establishment of religion.”  Establishment of religion referred to the old practice of having official government religions.  Most of the 13 colonies had such religions that were supported by the government.  No American state had an official religion, but by the 1960s there were conflicts over how much the government could promote religion without violating this clause.  Murray and Schempp were both centered on this issue.

These cases were decided in 1963.  One year previously, the Court had ruled that officially-sponsored prayers in public schools were illegal.  In 1963, it was asked to rule on laws that required reading of the Bible.  In these cases, the Court ruled that this practice was unconstitutional because it involved the government promoting a particular religious point of view.

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