On this day in history - June 17th, 1963

On this day in history - June 17th, 1963

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - In the case of Abington School District v. Schempp, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Bible readings in public schools are unconstitutional.

The case started in Pennsylvania when a Unitarian named Edward Schempp filed a lawsuit against the Abington School District. Schempp's children were forced to listen to a reading of the Bible and recite the Lord's Prayer every morning before class according to Pennsylvania state law. He took offense to the readings and recitings. The state of Pennsylvania's First District Court struck the law down, but Abington School District appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On appeal,

Abington School District v. Schempp

was consolidated with another similar case in Maryland awaiting appeal,

Murray v. Curlett

. Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the woman


named "the most hated woman in America" in 1964, orchestrated

Murray v. Curlett.

The Supreme Court voted 8-1 in favor of Schempp. Justice William J. Brennan filed a very long concurrence in which he said "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."

Congress attempted to pass over 150 resolutions to amend the Constitution in order to overturn the ruling.