Name. School District of Abington
Township v. Schempp; Murray v. Curtlett.
Decided By Supreme Court. 1963.
that Triggered the Dispute. In 1956, Ellery Schempp chose not to read from
the Bible at Abington High School as part of a Pennsylvania law requiring
students to do so and was suspended. In Murray
v. Curtlett, an atheist objected to a Maryland Law requiring daily readings
from the Bible in schools on behalf of her son.
Schempp, the federal district court
of PA struck down on the public school Bible reading. In the Murray case, the Maryland Court of
Appeals upheld reading Bible passages in schools.
of the Constitution. Schempp and Murray alleged that the reading of the
Holy Bible “is a mandatory devotional or religious act” that violates the
establishment clause, prefers Christianity, and violates free exercise of
Question. Is mandating school prayer/reading the Bible constitutional?
an 8-1 ruling, the Court held for Schempp and Murray.
Reasoning for the Majority. In delivering the opinion of the Court, Justice
Clark held that:
The State may not establish a religion of
secularism or favoritism to a particular religion.
The Bible is worthy of learning for its
historical value, but not necessary to learn for religious value in secular
Doctrine. The majority:
The State must maintain neutrality when it comes
to religious practices, as stated in the First Amendment.
Reaffirmed that the Free Exercise Clause
prohibits the State from denying someone the right to free exercise.
10. Other Points of View.
Justice Douglas concurred: The State, in this
case, violates the Establishment Clause because it is not maintaining
neutrality. The State cannot use funds or facilities, such as public schools,
to favor one religion over another.
Justice Brennan concurred: The State violates
the Establishment Clause.
Justice Goldberg (joined by Justice Harlan) concurred:
The State violates the both religion clauses of the First Amendment.
Justice Stewart dissented: There is no evidence
that students were coerced to participate in the exercises and had the right to
excuse themselves, therefore, there is inadequate evidence for the case.