Abington School District v. Schempp

Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963),[1] was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court decided 8–1 in favor of the respondent, Edward Schempp legal responsible of his son Ellery Schempp, and declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during this case was Earl Warren.

Abington School District v. Schempp
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued February 27–28, 1963
Decided June 17, 1963
Full case nameSchool District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania, et al. v. Edward Schempp, et al.; Murray, et al. v. Curlett, et al., Constituting the Board of School Commissioners of Baltimore City
Citations374 U.S. 203 (more)
83 S. Ct. 1560; 10 L. Ed. 2d 844; 1963 U.S. LEXIS 2611
Prior historySchempp v. School District of Abington Township, 201 F. Supp. 815 (E.D. Pa. 1962); Murray v. Curlett, 228 Md. 239, 179 A.2d 698 (1962).
Sanctioned and organized Bible reading in public schools is unconstitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
Tom C. Clark · John M. Harlan II
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Arthur Goldberg
Case opinions
MajorityClark, joined by Warren, Black, White, Douglas, Goldberg, Harlan, Brennan
ConcurrenceGoldberg, joined by Harlan
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amends. I, XIV


Origin of case

The Abington case began when Edward Schempp, a Unitarian Universalist and a resident of Abington Township, Pennsylvania, filed suit against the Abington School District in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to prohibit the enforcement of a Pennsylvania state law that required his children, specifically Ellery Schempp, to hear and sometimes read portions of the Bible as part of their public school education.[2] That law (24 Pa. Stat. 15-1516, as amended, Pub. Law 1928) required that "[a]t least ten verses from the Holy Bible [be] read, without comment, at the opening of each public school on each school day." Schempp specifically contended that the statute violated his and his family's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.[1]

Pennsylvania law, like that of four other states, included a statute compelling school districts to perform Bible readings in the mornings before classes. Twenty-five states had laws allowing "optional" Bible reading, with the remainder having no laws supporting or rejecting Bible reading. In eleven of those states with laws supportive of Bible reading or state-sponsored prayer, the state courts had declared them unconstitutional.[3]

A related case was that brought by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, mother of plaintiff William J. Murray III (b. 1946), who filed suit against the local school system in Murray v. Curlett to prohibit compulsory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. In 1963 she founded the group American Atheists (originally known as the Society of Separationists). The Murray case was consolidated with Schempp's on appeal to the Supreme Court.

District court arguments

During the first trial in federal district court, Edward Schempp and his children testified as to specific religious doctrines purveyed by a literal reading of the Bible "which were contrary to the religious beliefs which they held and to their familial teaching" (177 F. Supp. 398, 400). The children testified that all of the doctrines to which they referred were read to them at various times as part of the exercises. Edward Schempp testified at the second trial that he had considered having his children excused from attendance at the exercises but decided against it for several reasons, including his belief that the children's relationships with their teachers and classmates would be adversely affected.

District court ruling

The district court ruled in Schempp's favor, and struck down the Pennsylvania statute. The school district appealed the ruling, and while that appeal was pending, the Pennsylvania legislature amended the statute to allow children to be excused from the exercises upon the written request of their parents. This change did not satisfy Schempp, however, and he continued his action against the school district, charging that the amendment of the law did not change its nature as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Because of the change in the law, the Supreme Court had responded to the school district's appeal by vacating the first ruling and remanding the case to the district court. The district court again found for Schempp. The school district appealed to the Supreme Court again, and, on appeal, the case was consolidated with a similar Maryland case launched by O'Hair.[4]

The district court ruling in the second trial, in striking down the practices and the statute requiring them, made specific findings of fact that the children's attendance at Abington Senior High School was compulsory and that the practice of reading 10 verses from the Bible was also compelled by law. It also found that:

The reading of the verses, even without comment, possesses a devotional and religious character and constitutes in effect a religious observance. The devotional and religious nature of the morning exercises is made all the more apparent by the fact that the Bible reading is followed immediately by a recital in unison by the pupils of the Lord's Prayer. The fact that some pupils, or theoretically all pupils, might be excused from attendance at the exercises does not mitigate the obligatory nature of the ceremony for ... Section 1516 ... unequivocally requires the exercises to be held every school day in every school in the Commonwealth. The exercises are held in the school buildings and perforce are conducted by and under the authority of the local school authorities and during school sessions. Since the statute requires the reading of the 'Holy Bible,' a Christian document, the practice ... prefers the Christian religion. The record demonstrates that it was the intention of ... the Commonwealth ... to introduce a religious ceremony into the public schools of the Commonwealth. (201 F. Supp., at 819; quoted in 374 U.S. 203 (1963))

Precedents for case

The Court explicitly upheld Engel v. Vitale, in which the Court ruled that the sanctioning of a prayer by the school amounted to a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The Abington court held that in organizing a reading of the Bible, the school was conducting "a religious exercise," and "that cannot be done without violating the 'neutrality' required of the State by the balance of power between individual, church and state that has been struck by the First Amendment" (374 U.S. 203 (1963)). Over the previous two decades, the Supreme Court, by incorporating specific rights into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, had steadily increased the extent to which rights contained in United States Bill of Rights were applied against the states.[a] Abington was a continuation of this trend with regard to the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment, and specifically built upon Supreme Court precedents in Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940), Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), and McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948).

Opinions of the Court

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in order to settle the persistent and vigorous protests resulting from its previous decision in Engel v. Vitale regarding religion in schools.[5] Henry W. Sawyer argued the case for Schempp.


The Supreme Court upheld the District Court's decision and found the Pennsylvania prayer statute unconstitutional by virtue of the facts in the case, as well as the clear line of precedent established by the Supreme Court. In writing the opinion of the Court, Justice Tom C. Clark stated, "This Court has decisively settled that the First Amendment's mandate [in the Establishment Clause] has been made wholly applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment ... in a series of cases since Cantwell.[6][7]

What was unexpected, however, were the ideas expressed in the second portion of Justice Clark's opinion written for the majority. The Court's recognition of religious ideals as valuable to the culture of the United States in that opinion are generally not cited much by either side of the church-state debate when discussing the case and the effect it had on the United States. His opening thoughts explicitly spelled out that view in past jurisprudence with cases similar to Abington v. Schempp.

Clark continued that the Court was of the feeling that no matter the religious nature of the citizenry, the government at all levels, as required by the Constitution, must remain neutral in matters of religion "while protecting all, prefer[ring] none, and disparag[ing] none." The Court had clearly rejected "the contention by many that the Establishment Clause forbade only governmental preference of one faith over another."[8]

Citing Justice Hugo Black in Torcaso v. Watkins, Justice Clark added, "We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person 'to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.' Neither can constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs." Such prohibited behavior was self-evident in the Pennsylvania law requiring Bible reading (and allowing recitation of the Lord's Prayer) in its public schools. The Court recognized the value of such ideal neutrality from lessons of history when government and religion were either fully fused or cooperative with one another and religious liberty was nonexistent or seriously curtailed.

Brennan's concurrence

Justice Brennan filed a lengthy and historically significant concurrence, taking seventy-three pages to elaborate his ideas about what the Framers intended in the formation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, gauging the value of religion in American culture, reviewing legal precedents, and suggesting a course for future church-state cases. Brennan focused on the history of the Establishment Clause to counter numerous critics of the Court's Engel decision, who pointed out that prayer in public schools, as well as in many other areas of public life, was a longstanding practice going back to the framing of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He professed to be aware of the "ambiguities in the historical record",[9] and felt a modern-day interpretation of the First Amendment was warranted. In defense of that approach, Brennan stated:

Whatever Jefferson or Madison would have thought of Bible reading or the recital of the Lord's Prayer in ... public schools ..., our use of the history ... must limit itself to broad purposes, not specific practices. ... [T]he Baltimore and Abington schools offend the First Amendment because they sufficiently threaten in our day those substantive evils the fear of which called forth the Establishment Clause. ... [O]ur interpretation of the First Amendment must necessarily be responsive to the much more highly charged nature of religious questions in contemporary society. A too literal quest for the advice of the Founding Fathers upon the issues of these cases seems to me futile and misdirected.

In answer to critics of a broad interpretation of the prohibitions against government in the realm of religion, Brennan said, "nothing in the text of the Establishment Clause supports the view that the prevention of the setting up of an official church was meant to be the full extent of the prohibitions against official involvements in religion".

In the third section of his exhaustive concurrence, Justice Brennan charted the course that led to the incorporation of the First Amendment's religion clauses by way of answering the charge of Abington Township's counsel that Pennsylvania's Bible reading statute was a state issue, outside the purview of the federal court system, including that of the Supreme Court. He labeled the daily recitals of the Lord's Prayer and reading of the Bible as "quite [clear] breaches of the command of the Establishment Clause". He noted the long history of such practices, even before the "founding of our Republic". Additionally, he stated that most of those who demanded reading of the Bible and prayer in schools were hoping to serve "broader goals than compelling formal worship of God or fostering church attendance". He cited the 1858 words of the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, who saw the Bible as aptly suited to "teaching the noblest principles of virtue, morality, patriotism, and good order".

Justice Brennan took great pains to also show that many states, such as South Dakota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Ohio and Massachusetts, had already enacted and revoked laws similar to Pennsylvania's by the first half of the 20th century. In addition, many political leaders including attorneys general and presidents like Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt insisted that "matters of religion be left to family altars, churches and private schools" and "[It] is not our business to have the Protestant Bible or the Catholic Vulgate or the Talmud read in [public] schools" .

Brennan's concurrence also recognized the plurality of religious thought in the nation as basis enough for restriction of church and state relations. He cited this lack of appreciation of that pluralism as the "basic flaw" of Pennsylvania's Bible reading statute and Abington Township's defense of it:

There are persons in every community—often deeply devout—to whom any version of the Judaeo-Christian Bible is offensive. There are others whose reverence for the Holy Scriptures demands private study or reflection and to whom public reading or recitation is sacrilegious.... To such persons it is not the fact of using the Bible in the public schools, nor the content of any particular version, that is offensive, but the manner in which it is used.

Stewart's dissent

Justice Potter Stewart filed the only dissent in the case. In it, he was critical of both the lower court opinions and the decision the Supreme Court had reached regarding them. He wished to remand the case to lower courts for further proceedings.

Stewart had dissented in Engel v. Vitale and viewed the doctrine relied on in that case as implausible, given the long history of government religious practice in the United States, including the fact that the Supreme Court opens its own sessions with the declaration, "God Save this Honorable Court" and that Congress opens its sessions with prayers, among many other examples. Stewart believed that such practice fit with the nation's long history of permitting free exercise of religious practices, even in the public sphere.

He declared the cases consolidated with Schempp as "so fundamentally deficient as to make impossible an informed or responsible determination of the constitutional issues presented"—specifically, of whether the Establishment Clause was violated. As to the intent and scope of the religion clauses of the First Amendment:

It is, I think, a fallacious oversimplification to regard the [religion clauses] as establishing a single constitutional standard of "separation of church and state", which can be applied in every case to delineate the required boundaries between government and religion.... As a matter of history, the First Amendment was adopted solely as a limitation upon the newly created National Government. The events leading to its adoption strongly suggest that the Establishment Clause was primarily an attempt to insure that Congress not only would be powerless to establish a national church, but would also be unable to interfere with existing state establishments. ... So matters stood until the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, or more accurately, until this Court's decision in Cantwell....

He stated his agreement with the doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment's embrace and application of the Bill of Rights, but pointed out the irony of such an amendment "designed to leave the States free to go their own way should now have become a restriction upon their autonomy".[10]

Other critics of the Court's findings in Abington v. Schempp often quote the following excerpt from Justice Stewart's opinion:[10]

If religious exercises are held to be an impermissible activity in schools, religion is placed in an artificial and state-created disadvantage.... And a refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism, or at least, as governmental support of the beliefs of those who think that religious exercises should be conducted only in private.

Subsequent developments

The public was divided in reaction to the Court's decision; the decision has sparked persistent and ongoing criticism from proponents of prayer in school. In 1964, Life magazine declared Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the mother of the plaintiff in one of the associated cases, to be "the most hated woman in America."[11]

Newspapers were no exception. The Washington Evening Star, for example, criticized the decision, declaring that "God and religion have all but been driven from the public schools. What remains? Will the baccalaureate service and Christmas carols be the next to go? Don't bet against it."[12] In contrast, the New York Times was more accepting of the Court's ruling. The paper printed significant portions of the opinions with no significant comments, either supportive or critical.[13] Opponents characterized the decision as the one which "kicked God and prayer out of the schools".[14]

The views of various religious entities on the decision split between mainline Protestants and Jews, who in general strongly supported the decision, and evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics, who strongly opposed the decision. Speaking from the conservative Protestant perspective, the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham said, "[i]n my opinion ... the Supreme Court ... is wrong. ... Eighty percent of the American people want Bible reading and prayer in the schools. Why should a majority be so severely penalized ...?"[15] The mainline denominations, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, expressed less critical opinions of the verdict. Some considered it to support religious freedom because it limited governmental authority in the sphere of public schools.[16]

The United States Congress reacted by drafting more than 150 resolutions to overturn the ruling by a constitutional amendment.[17] Abington v. Schempp was used as precedent for similar cases such as Board of Education v. Allen and Lemon v. Kurtzman in the decades that followed. The three-part Lemon test had its basis in the jurisprudence of Abington v. Schempp. Under the test, the constitutionality of a given church-state law is weighed by three criteria: whether a law has a non-secular purpose, advances or inhibits religion, or results in excessive government entanglement with religion.

See also


  1. ^ The process of incorporation (also known as "nationalization") of the United States Bill of Rights began with cases Missouri Pacific Railway Co. v. State of Nebraska Board of Transportation, 164 U.S. 403 (1896) and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. City of Chicago, 166 U.S. 226 (1897) pitting the railroads against the government over just compensation for the taking of private property, due all persons (and corporations) under the Fifth Amendment. Next was First Amendment Freedom of Speech, in Fiske v. Kansas, 274 U.S. 380 (1927). Freedom of Religion was first incorporated (albeit in dictum) in Hamilton v. Regents of the University of California, 293 U.S. 245 (1934), and made official in Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940). Finally in Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the court ruled that a state could not write or sanction an official prayer to be read by students at school. For a more detailed history of Incorporation, see Incorporation (Bill of Rights).



  1. ^ a b Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963).
  2. ^ Dierenfield, Bruce J. "The Most Hated Woman in America: Madalyn Murray and the Crusade Against School Prayer"], Journal of Supreme Court History 32, no.1 (2007), 62-84
  3. ^ Boston 1993, p. 101
  4. ^ Boston 1993, p. 106
  5. ^ White & Zimmerman 1990, p. 70
  6. ^ Eastland 1993, p. 151
  7. ^ Davis 1991, p. 91
  8. ^ Eastland 1993, p. 59
  9. ^ Quoting author in Davis 1991, p. 77
  10. ^ a b Eastland 1993, p. 165
  11. ^ Madalyn Murray O'Hair Biography, retrieved 2013-07-20
  12. ^ Eastland 1993, p. 165
  13. ^ Lewis 1963, p. 16
  14. ^ Wright 2008, p. 96
  15. ^ Billy Graham voices shock over decision. (June 18, 1963). New York Times. p. 17.
  16. ^ Dugan 1963, p. 18
  17. ^ O'Hair 1974, p. 55


  • "Abington School District v. Schempp". Rydal-Meadowbrook Civic Association. Archived from the original on October 13, 2013.
  • Billy Graham voices shock over decision. (June 18, 1963). New York Times. p. 17.
  • Boston, Robert (1993). Why the religious right is wrong: About separation of church and state (1st ed.). Buffalo: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-834-1.
  • Burnette Jr., Lawrence (2011). Readings on the Development of the American Constitution. Xlibris Corporation. p. 802.
  • Davis, Derek (1991). Original Intent: Chief Justice Rehnquist and the Course of American Church-State Relations. Buffalo: Prometheus Books.
  • Dugan, George (June 18, 1963). "Churches divided, with most in favor". New York Times. p. 18.
  • Eastland, Terry (1993). Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court. Washington: Ethics and Public Policy Center. Eerdmans Pub Co. ISBN 978-0-89633-178-5.
  • * Laats, Adam. "Our schools, our country: American evangelicals, public schools, and the Supreme Court decisions of 1962 and 1963." Journal of religious history 36.3 (2012): 319-334.
  • O'Hair, Madalyn (1974). Freedom Under Siege. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc.
  • Lewis, Anthony (June 18, 1963). "Government must be neutral in religion, majority asserts". New York Times. p. 16.
  • Licciardello, Carman (1994). Raising the Standard: Reclaiming Our World for God. Nashville: Sparrow Press.
  • McWilliams, Peter (1993). Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society (1st ed.). Los Angeles: Prelude Press. ISBN 0-931580-53-6.
  • Tushnet, Mark (2008). I dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 167–178. ISBN 978-0-8070-0036-6.
  • White, Ronald C.; Zimmerman, Albright G (1990). An Unsettled Arena: Religion and the Bill of Rights. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. ISBN 0-8028-0465-9.
  • Wright, Russell G. (2008). Chronology of education in the United States. McFarland Co. ISBN 978-0-7864-2502-0.

External links

Abington School District

Abington School District is a medium-sized, suburban, public school district that serves: the Borough of Rockledge and Abington Township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States. The district operates one high School, one middle school, and seven elementary schools. Abington School District encompasses approximately 16 square miles. According to the 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 58,680. In 2009, the district residents' per capita income was $29,932 a year, while the median family income was $70,226. In the Commonwealth, the median family income was

$49,501 and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010. According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Abington School District provided basic educational services to 7,440 pupils. It employed: 551 teachers, 399 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 62 administrators. Abington School District received more than $16.2 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

Abington Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Abington Township is a township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States, adjacent to Philadelphia's northern fringe. The population was 55,310 as of the 2010 census, making it the second most populous township in Montgomery County (following Lower Merion Township). The population density is 3603.3 per square mile, making it the second most densely populated township in Montgomery County (following Cheltenham Township).

Abington Township is one of Montgomery County's oldest communities, dating back to before 1700 and being incorporated in 1704. It is home to some of the county's oldest transportation routes, industries and churches. Many of these older business and transportation centers were the forerunners of modern Abington. Abington contains the Willow Grove Park Mall, several small businesses, and a few of Montgomery County's largest employers.

American Atheists

American Atheists is a non-profit organization in the United States dedicated to defending the civil liberties of atheists and advocating complete separation of church and state. It provides speakers for colleges, universities, clubs, and the news media. It also publishes books and the quarterly American Atheist Magazine, edited by Pamela Whissel.The organization was founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O'Hair. She had earlier filed a lawsuit against her school board, with her son William J. Murray as plaintiff, to challenge compulsory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. Her case, Murray v. Curlett, was consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp before being heard by the United States Supreme Court. In 1963 it ruled that mandatory Bible reading in public schools was unconstitutional.

Cameron Village, Baltimore

Cameron Village is a neighborhood in the North District of Baltimore, located between the neighborhoods of Mid-Govans and Woodbourne Heights. Vaguely bell-shaped, its boundaries are marked by Bradhurst Road and E. Belvedere Avenue (north), Woodbourne Avenue (south), Lothian Road (west) and Northwood Drive (east).

Criticism of the Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States has been criticized on several grounds. Its use in government funded schools has been the most controversial, as critics contend that a government-sanctioned endorsement of religion violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Arguments against the pledge include that the pledge itself is incompatible with democracy and freedom, pledges of allegiance are features of totalitarian states such as Nazi Germany, and that the pledge was written to honor Christopher Columbus and to sell flags.

Edgerton Bible Case

The Edgerton Bible Case was an important court case involving prayer in public schools in Wisconsin. In the early days of Edgerton, Wisconsin, it was common practice for public school teachers to read aloud from the King James Bible to their students. In 1886, Roman Catholic parents protested this practice to the school board, citing their belief that the Douay version of the Bible was the only correct translation for their children.After failing to convince the school board to end the practice, the parents took their case to court. In November 1888 the circuit court decided that the readings were not sectarian because both translations were of the same work. The parents took their case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In State ex rel Weiss v. District Board 76 Wis. 177 (1890), 3, otherwise known as the Edgerton Bible Case, the judges overruled the circuit court's decision, concluding that it illegally united the functions of church and state.In 1963, the United States Supreme Court banned government-sponsored compulsory prayer from public schools (see Abington School District v. Schempp), and Justice William Brennan, Jr. cited the Edgerton Bible Case in his decision.

Ellery Schempp

Ellery Schempp (born Ellory Schempp, August 5, 1940) is a physicist and is known for being the primary student involved in the landmark 1963 United States Supreme Court decision of Abington School District v. Schempp which declared that required public school sanctioned Bible readings were unconstitutional.

Engel v. Vitale

Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and encourage its recitation in public schools. Engel has been the subject of intense debate.

Epperson v. Arkansas

Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), was a United States Supreme Court case that invalidated an Arkansas statute that prohibited the teaching of human evolution in the public schools. The Court held that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits a state from requiring, in the words of the majority opinion, "that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma." The Supreme Court declared the Arkansas statute unconstitutional because it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. After this decision, some jurisdictions passed laws that required the teaching of creation science alongside evolution when evolution was taught. These were also ruled unconstitutional by the Court in the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard.

Henry W. Sawyer

Henry Washington Sawyer III (December 23, 1918 – July 31, 1999) was an American lawyer, civil rights activist, and Democratic politician. Born in Philadelphia, he served in World War II and attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Sawyer worked as a corporate lawyer but is best known for his advocacy of civil liberties, especially in First Amendment cases. In Abington School District v. Schempp and Lemon v. Kurtzman, he successfully argued cases before the Supreme Court of the United States that became the basis for all modern Establishment Clause jurisprudence. He pursued civil rights causes in Philadelphia and in the South during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He also served a four-year term on Philadelphia City Council, where he worked for civil service reform and to increase the amount of public art in the city.

Lee v. Weisman

Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992), was a United States Supreme Court decision regarding school prayer. It was the first major school prayer case decided by the Rehnquist Court. It ruled that schools may not sponsor clerics to conduct even non-denominational prayer. The Court followed a broad interpretation of the Establishment Clause that had been standard for decades at the nation's highest court, a reaffirmation of the principles of such landmark cases as Engel v. Vitale and Abington v. Schempp.

List of United States Supreme Court cases involving the First Amendment

This is a list of cases that appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States involving the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Madalyn Murray O'Hair (née Mays; April 13, 1919 – September 29, 1995) was an American activist supporting atheism and separation of church and state. In 1963 she founded American Atheists and served as its president to 1986, after which her son Jon Garth Murray succeeded her. She created the first issues of American Atheist Magazine.

O'Hair is best known for the Murray v. Curlett lawsuit, which challenged the policy of mandatory prayers and Bible reading in Baltimore public schools, in which she named her first son William J. Murray as plaintiff. Consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), it was heard by the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that official Bible-reading in American public schools was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court had prohibited officially sponsored prayer in schools in Engel v. Vitale (1962) on similar grounds. Through American Atheists, O'Hair filed numerous other suits on issues of separation of church and state.

In 1995, O'Hair, her second son Jon Garth Murray (known as "Garth"), and her adopted daughter Robin Murray O'Hair (daughter of William J. Murray and his high school girlfriend Susan), disappeared from Austin, Texas. Garth Murray withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from American Atheists' funds, and there was speculation that the trio had absconded. David Roland Waters, a convicted felon and former employee of American Atheists, was convicted of murdering O'Hair, Jon Garth Murray, and Robin Murray O'Hair. The bodies were not found until Waters led authorities to their burial place following his conviction.


Schempp may refer to:

Ellery Schempp (born 1940), physicist noted for being the primary student involved in the Abington School District v. Schempp case

Martin Schempp (1905–1984), German glider pilot and founder of Schempp-Hirth, a major manufacturer of gliders

Simon Schempp (born 1988), German biathlete

Solomon Grayzel

Solomon Grayzel (1896–1980) was an American Jewish historian who authored A History of the Jews and testified as an expert witness in Abington School District v. Schempp, the case that declared school-sponsored Bible reading in American public schools to be unconstitutional. Among other topics, his scholarly research focused on the relationship between the Vatican and the Jews, including The Church and the Jews in the XIIIth Century and many other scholarly essays and books on the topic.Grayzel was born on February 18, 1896 in Minsk, a major hub of Eastern European Jewry prior to the Holocaust which is now the capital of Belarus. He emigrated to the United States as an adolescent, settling in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, with his family in 1908. Grayzel received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the City College of New York in 1917 and a Master of Arts degree in sociology from Columbia University in 1920. He received his rabbinical ordination (smicha) from the Conservative Movement at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1921, and earned a Ph.D. in history from Dropsie College in 1926. While working on his doctorate, Grayzel took his first and only full-time pulpit position at Congregation Beth El in Camden, New Jersey. He was the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society from 1939-1966.

Stone v. Graham

In Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a Kentucky statute was unconstitutional and in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it lacked a nonreligious, legislative purpose. The statute required the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall of each public classroom in the state. While the copies of the Ten Commandments were purchased with private funding, the Court ruled that because they were being placed in public classrooms they were in violation of the First Amendment.

Tom C. Clark

Thomas Campbell Clark (September 23, 1899 – June 13, 1977) was an American lawyer who served as the 59th United States Attorney General from 1945 to 1949. He was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1949 to 1967.Born in Dallas, Texas, Clark graduated from the University of Texas School of Law after serving in World War I. He practiced law in Dallas until 1937, when he accepted a position in the United States Department of Justice. After Harry S. Truman became President of the United States in 1945, he chose Clark as his Attorney General. In 1949, Truman successfully nominated Clark to fill the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the death of Associate Justice Frank Murphy. Clark remained on the court until his retirement in 1967, and was succeeded by Thurgood Marshall. Clark retired so that his son, Ramsey Clark, could assume the position of Attorney General.

Clark served on the Vinson Court and the Warren Court. He voted with the Court's majority in the several cases concerning racial segregation, including the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. He wrote the majority opinion in landmark Mapp v. Ohio, which ruled that the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. He also wrote the majority opinion in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, which upheld the public accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the majority opinions in Garner v. Board of Public Works, Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, and Abington School District v. Schempp.

Warren Court

The Warren Court was the period in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States during which Earl Warren served as Chief Justice. Warren replaced the deceased Fred M. Vinson as Chief Justice in 1953, and Warren remained in office until he retired in 1969. Warren was succeeded as Chief Justice by Warren Burger.

Warren led a liberal majority that used judicial power in dramatic fashion, to the consternation of conservative opponents. The Warren Court expanded civil rights, civil liberties, judicial power, and the federal power in dramatic ways.The court was both applauded and criticized for bringing an end to racial segregation in the United States, incorporating the Bill of Rights (i.e. including it in the 14th Amendment Due Process clause), and ending officially sanctioned voluntary prayer in public schools. The period is recognized as the highest point in judicial power that has receded ever since, but with a substantial continuing impact.

William J. Murray

William J. "Bill" Murray III (born May 25, 1946) is an American author, Baptist minister, and social conservative lobbyist who serves as the chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C. It lobbies Congress on issues related to aiding Christians in Islamic and Communist countries.

The son of the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair, known as an atheist activist, Murray was named as the plaintiff in his mother's challenge to mandatory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. After it was consolidated and heard as Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), the US Supreme Court ruled that mandatory Bible reading was unconstitutional. After becoming a Christian in 1980, Murray published a memoir, My Life Without God (1982), about his spiritual journey.

Railroad stations

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