Abington School District v. Schempp | The Oyez

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ABINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT V. SCHEMPP
Term: 1960­1969 1962
Case Basics
Location: Abington High School
Facts of the Case The Abington case concerns Bible­reading in Pennsylvania public schools. At the
beginning of the school day, students who attended public schools in the state of
Pennsylvania were required to read at least ten verses from the Bible. After
completing these readings, school authorities required all Abington Township
students to recite the Lord's Prayer. Students could be excluded from these
exercises by a written note from their parents to the school. In a related case ­­
Murray v. Curlett ­­ a Baltimore statute required Bible­reading or the recitation of the
Lord's Prayer at open exercises in public schools. Murray and his mother, professed
atheists ­­ challenged the prayer requirement.
Question Did the Pennsylvania law and Abington's policy, requiring public school students to
participate in classroom religious exercises, violate the religious freedom of students
as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?
Docket No. 142
Appellant School District of Abington
Township, Pennsylvania, et al.
Appellee Schempp
Consolidation Murray v. Curlett, No. 119
Decided By Warren Court (1962­1965)
Opinion 374 U.S. 203 (1963)
Argued February 27­28, 1963
Conclusion Decision: 8 votes for Schempp, 1 vote(s) against
Decided Monday, June 17, 1963
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion
The Court found such a violation. The required activities encroached on both the
Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since
the readings and recitations were essentially religious ceremonies and were
"intended by the State to be so." Furthermore, argued Justice Clark, the ability of a
parent to excuse a child from these ceremonies by a written note was irrelevant since
it did not prevent the school's actions from violating the Establishment Clause.
Advocates
John D. Killian, III
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
Henry W. Sawyer, III
(Argued the cause for the appellees)
Philip H. Ward, III
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
Tags
Warren
Black
Douglas
Clark
Harlan
Brennan
White
Goldberg
First
Amendment
Stewart
Cite this Page
ABINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT v. SCHEMPP. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago­Kent College of Law. 23
November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960­1969/1962/1962_142>.
© 2005­2011 Oyez, Inc.

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