The question arises as to whether or not the reading of Bible passages should be instituted in public schools. Although
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.
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.
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
( 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
tice William J. Brennan, who was one of the four concurring of the eight majority. Writing the only
religious involvement in public schools was a practice dating back the formation of the Amendments, Justice Brennan claimed the Amendments were somewhat ambiguous
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-
schools, nor the content of any par- ticular version, that is offensive, but the manner in which it is used.\u201d
thought of Bible reading
or the recital of the Lord' s
Prayer in . . . public
schools . . ., our use of the
cause they sufficiently
threaten in our day those
substantive evils the fear
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-
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.
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.
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
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
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