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APUS Court Cases: Abington v Schempp

APUS Court Cases: Abington v Schempp



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Schempp v.
Abington 1963
Bible in School?
By Diana Lenhardt

The question arises as to whether or not the reading of Bible passages should be instituted in public schools. Although

approved in the state of Pennsylvania
in1949, should public schools permit the
reading of\u201c a t l ea st t en ver ses f r om t h e
Holy Bible\u2026without comment, at the
opening of each public school day.\u201d?
Many parents disagreed with this practice,
even t hough\u201c a n y c h i l d sh a l l b e exc u sed
from such Bible reading, or attending such
Bible reading, upon written request of his
parent or guardian.\u201dI n1 9 5 8 , when

Edward Schempp first took up this case in court against the recitation of the bible in the Abington Township School District, he argued that reading the bible in public

school was unconstitutional under the
first amendment. As a resident of
Abington Township, Pennsylvania, Mr.

Schempp felt that reciting the bible in
public schools \u201c prohibited free exercise of
religion for his children.\u201d This case took

several years to settle as it bounced back and forth in the Supreme Court, however, was settled with the federal district court on June 17th, 1963, in favor of Mr.

Schempp\u2019s arguments, ruling that reading
the bible in public school is
Page 1
Issue 1, Volum e 1
Court Case Chronicles
June 17th, 1963
And the Decision?
Majority Rule in Favor of Schempp
By: Travis Coleson
On June 17, 1963, the United States Supreme
Count ruled 8-1 in the Abington School District v.
Schempp case that it is unconstitutional for public
schools to have students read from the Bible. Only
one court member, Justice Potter Stewart, dis-
sented to the case. The majority of the court in-
cluded Early Warren, Tom C. Clark, Hugo Black,
Byron R. White, William O. Douglass, Arthur J. Gold-
berg, John M. Harlan, and William J. Brennan. The
majority opinion, written by Justice Clark, stated
that the Constitution required religious neutrality
among government organizations, such as

schools. Justice Clark also added that, " We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Fed- eral Government can constitutionally force a person

' to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion' " .

( L eft ) Photo of Schempp, the Plaintiff. A
Unitarian and resident of the Abington township. Excerpt
from the Bible ( Right) .

In an almost landslide vic- tory for Schempp, eight of the su- preme court justices agreed that bible reading in public schools is

an unconstitutional act. In light of
this recent event the School Dis-
trict of Abington Township Penn-
sylvania will be lawfully obligated
to make changes in their format.
A concurrence was written by Jus-

tice William J. Brennan, who was one of the four concurring of the eight majority. Writing the only

long and really significant concur-
rence, Justice Brennan wrote
among other things, about his beliefs
about how the writers of the First and
Fourteenth Amendments wanted them to
be interpreted. Despite critics saying that

religious involvement in public schools was a practice dating back the formation of the Amendments, Justice Brennan claimed the Amendments were somewhat ambiguous

and that a present-day interpretation of
them was needed.

He wrote, \u201c There are persons in
every community to whom Christian
Bible is offensive. There are others
whose reverence for the Holy Scrip-
tures demands private study or re-

flection 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 par- ticular version, that is offensive, but the manner in which it is used.\u201d

Concurring Beliefs
Brennan Writes a Significant Concurrence.
By Justin Draeger
Issue 1, Volume 1
\u201c WhateverJef f erson 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 be-

cause they sufficiently
threaten in our day those
substantive evils the fear

of which called forth the
Establishment Clause....
A too literal quest for the
advice of the Founding
Fathers upon the issues of
these cases seems to me
futile and misdirected\u201d
-Justice Brennan
Portrait of Justice Brennan,
1976, wrote concurrence
Applying the Laws
Abingtonv. Schempp Case Opens Important
Questions about Constitutional Amendments
By: Danny Ritter
Everyone knows that the latest Supreme Court case, School District of Abing-
ton Townshipv.Schem p p , d eal t wi t h t he const i t ut i onal i t y of Bi b l e read i ng i n p ub l i c
schools. Some may be wondering: Exactly what part of the Constitution was being vio-
lated? Edward Schempp claims that the required Bible reading in his children\u2019s
schools violated their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendment.
In the First Amendment, there is a phrase that states, \u201c Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise

thereof\u2026.\u201d This means that neither the government nor government institutions, in- cluding public schools, can favor one religion over another in any way. Since reading the Bible in class is favoring, Christian doctrine, it is unconstitutional.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment deals with limiting laws that are unfair to certain groups. Since the law requiring Bible reading in Pennsylvania gave more attention to the Christian students, this violated the Fourteenth Amend-

ment as well as the first.
For the most part, public reaction to the

ruling on Abington School District v. Schempp was split. Many people thought the case deci- sion to be an outrage while others looked for- ward the aftereffects and appreciated the rul- ing.

The newspapers were very upset with the
courts ruling, which in their opinions were
wrong. One such newspaper was The Washing-
t on Evening St ar which ventured to say that,
\u201c that the ruling all but \u2018kicked God and prayer
out of schools\u2019.\u201d In addition,Li f e magazine criti-
cized the plaintiff, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, to be
\u201c the most hated woman in America.\u201d Next,

evangelists like Billy Graham criticized the rul- ing because he thought that 80% of Americans wanted the Bible in schools. On the govern-

ment side, many Congressmen were prepared to amend the Constitution to include the right for schools to allow prayer and reading of the Bible.

On the other hand, some well known
newspapers accepted the courts ruling without
question. For example, the New York Times did
not publish any articles either for or against the

ruling. Finally, the ruling was embraced by
most religions other than the Roman Catholics.
People of other religions believed that the rul-

ing would lessen the power of the Roman
Catholic Church and the people would be more
open to explore other religions.

The Reaction
But Does the Public Agree?
By: Kevin Lim
Page 3
Issue 1, Volum e 1
The dissenting opinion of the court was

made up by Potter Stewart, who supported religion in state. He felt that the freedom of religion allowed for practice of religion anywhere, including in state and govern- ment. After all, court does open up with phrases such as, \u201cGod Save

this Honorable Court\u201d, which is followed by
a prayer. The case was decided against
Potter Stewart\u2019s hopes, however, on June
17th, 1963.
The Dissenter
Potter Stewart is the Minority Vote in
Abington v. Schempp.
By: Nicole Furr

Justice Potter Stewart, who ar- gued against the court\u2019s deci- sion in the case of Abingtonv .

\u201cIf 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 reali- zation of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion ofsecu lar ism, or at least, as govern- mental support of the beliefs of those who think that religious exercises should be conducted only in pri- vate\u201d

-Justice Potter

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