Supreme Court ruling 50 years ago set modern course for religion in public schools

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • T. Publius Kissimmee, FL
    July 13, 2013 9:56 a.m.

    Justice Tom C. Clark wrote for the majority in the Schempp case. "We have come to recognize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel, whether its purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or retard." He is talking about State government in this ruling. I contend that their ruling is an argument regarding “to aid or oppose, to advance or retard"are religious tests, as opposites, by the federal court -- and a usurpation of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution: “… all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

  • Eliyahu Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 25, 2013 4:36 p.m.

    What many people overlook when they call for more religion in schools is that while the religion they think ought to be there is their own religion, what they'd actually get is something entirely different. Would an LDS parent be happy to have their child reciting "Hail Mary" each morning? How about a Catholic child being told to recite the Jewish "Shema Yisroel" daily, or a Baptist asked to read from the Book of Mormon? We have churches, synagogues and mosques to teach us and to provide a place for religious activities, and if they're doing their jobs, we don't need to force-feed those beliefs to kids at school. No one is prevented from following their own beliefs. We just don't let schools impose them on what is essentially a captive audience.

  • bandersen Saint George, UT
    June 24, 2013 11:59 a.m.

    Cavetroll: Indeed! What about all the other books you mentioned? How do you teach them as 'good literature' if the school system demands that you only teach them as 'good literature' rather than the word of God? If they are just 'good literature' then are they not just the same as any other book that a teacher says is 'good literature', including pornography? If your definition of 'good literature' includes something along the lines of what stands the test of time, it won't work. What constituted 'marriage' stood for thousands of years, and doesn't seem to be accepted any longer. "Good literature' will suffer the same fate unless it is defended. If the bible isn't the word of God, it is a lie. How can a lie be defended as 'good literature'?

  • Mike in Cedar City Cedar City, Utah
    June 24, 2013 8:43 a.m.

    Terra Nova. Consider this. You say "without faith hope dies". How do you know if your faith has not been misplaced? Consider that placed their faith in Jim Jones, or David Korresh, or the "Heavens Gate" prophet. So the issue is, what or whose faith should we celebrate in public school worship?

    That faith can easily be misplaced is the fundamental weakness of on relying on that principal for determining the correct path.

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    June 23, 2013 10:46 p.m.

    RE: Banderson

    Maybe you should research the definition of "literature." The Bible is good literature. If the Bible claims for itself the Word of God, what about the Book of Mormon? The Quran? The Torah? Upanishads? Vedas and Bhagavad Gita? Are these books also not considered the Word of God? But they are all also literature.

  • bandersen Saint George, UT
    June 23, 2013 12:09 a.m.

    The bible as 'good literature.' What good is the bible as good literature? How can something that claims for itself the word of God be included as anything but the 'word of God'? It either is or isn't. If it is, then certainly it must be stated as such or how can it be 'good literature.' without mocking it? If it isn't, then the secularists win the day. The secularists have won the day and our nation suffers as a result. So be it! The very reason why I want government out of all aspects of my life and to run this country by its constitutional limits. School prayer is the least of my thoughts. For the liberal or athiest to denounce the teaching of the bible in schools and then support a government nanny state (supporting everything from welfare to war)is pure hypocrisy!

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    June 22, 2013 8:48 p.m.

    @the truth

    "Not requiring bible readings and prohibiting them are two different things." SCotus did not prohibit the reading of the Bible. They only stated Bible reading could not be used as a tool to promote religious beliefs. The justices even wrote in their opinion that this ruling should not be construed as a removal of religion from public life.

    "The WHOLE point the 1st amendment is to protect speech and expression, which includes religious, we do not like or do not agree with." This is exactly what this ruling was about. A young man was punished by his school for his unpopular expression. SCOTUS simply protected his 1st Amendment rights.

    What are you talking about? What does the president have to do with this court case? SCOTUS absolutely upheld the rights and the rule of law in this case. This was a clear case of them upholding the constitutional rights of the people, and was a "bipartisan" ruling.

  • OnlytheCross Bakersfield, CA
    June 22, 2013 9:37 a.m.

    @terra nova- Yes, while secular humanism is the god and goal of many public administrators, teachers of various religious dogma still have the last influential word inside the classroom... There is a little hope for variety in that 'market place of ideas' training ground...

    And on that note, JS "taught Christian values without [The] (historical, Biblical) Christian faith, thereby reaping the evangelical whirlwind, to this day. His faith and revelations included polytheism and plural marriage. Having faith is relative to each person's value system; t's "what" you have faith in that is the issue for dogmatics.

    So our world is populated with every kind of faith. And we all know the inner divisions within every sect or philosophy, given sufficient time on terra firma.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    June 22, 2013 5:58 a.m.

    In this decision and many other Supreme Court decisions our fore fathers put too much trust in the hopes that the supreme court would be a sacred and honored position with no political agenda and impartial decisions upholding the constitutional and the laws of this country.

    Well the presidents have found ways to manipulate the supreme courts and its trust to turn in into a side show and controversial injustice to the Constitution and its intentions.

    I think the supreme court has come to the point that it now requires some oversight and accountability requirements to the people and the Constitution. Decisions have become biased, prejudiced, and irrational jokes that insult their positions of trust and the nation.

    I think its time to amend this branch of government and empower the Congress and people to veto supreme court decisions that usurp the rights and intentions of the rule of law and our government of the people. Faith in the Supreme Court to be impartial, honest, and believe in this country has been compromised by presidential interference to have influence in the courts processes and decisions. The president has once again violated and breached his oath of office.

    June 21, 2013 8:09 a.m.

    Well written and thoughtful article on this wise landmark decision. In my opinion, many on the right and the left misunderstand this ruling. My understanding is that schools, under government auspices, cannot impose a prayer nor any religous reading in schools. I recall a similar case where someone from my faith was excluded from saying a prayer at a sports function in a bible belt area school. The Supreme Court ruled similarly to this bible ruling. However, this does not mean that students cannot voluntarily gather at lunchtime or as a club to read or pray to which ever God they choose, as long as no group is excluded from doing so. I also agree with the recent ruling where those in military positions of authority, can't use their rank to proseletyze(sp?). It's easy to see where someone in an authoritative position could coerce their beliefs. But this doesn't preclude someone from sharing what they believe, off duty. This is nothing new, really. I can't do that at my civilian place of employment, either, especially in a leadership role. No, this 1963 ruling is one of wisdom and protection of one's agency.

  • terra nova Park City, UT
    June 21, 2013 1:24 a.m.

    A well written and thoughtful piece. Thanks.

    The only problem with the article is that instead of supporting the ruling of the Supreme Court, our schools have adopted a new form of belief. In one form or another, the belief system of secular humanism is taught in every classroom in America. It is the new American religion. It attempts to teach Christian values without Christian faith.

    Our society suffers because of the loss of faith. Without faith, hope dies. And where there is no hope or faith, love cannot survive long. Without faith and hope it becomes brittle and cold and shatters.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    June 17, 2013 6:50 p.m.

    1n the 50's, living in a 1 bathroom house with my older teenage sisters, Waking up in the morning with them in the bathroom getting makeup on, getting ready for school. Banging on the bathroom door, was my religion. I remember the pryer in school, the pledge of allegiance. Then it went to a moment of silence and the pledge then the moment and the pledge was forgotten. We honor each other, we respect the property of others. To tell a lie, cheat or steel was dishonor, to others and to our self. I think that honor has been forgotten to. Should of kept the prayer.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    June 17, 2013 6:49 p.m.

    NO one has ever been forced to pray or agree to prayer.

    Not requiring bible readings and prohibiting them are two different things. "Congress shall make no law..."

    The federal government should not be in our local schools at all.

    The WHOLE point the 1st amendment is to protect speech and expression, which includes religious, we do not like or do not agree with.

    Otherwise the first amendment has no point or value.

    Schools are "by and of and for the People" not just for a few secularist tyrants.

    By the way, the supreme court is not infallible, they also supported slavery and many other decisions that one or other side has vehemently disagreed with.

  • OnlytheCross Bakersfield, CA
    June 17, 2013 11:48 a.m.

    Excellent article, good historical data. Thank you for an objective piece on a controversial cultural-socio-religious issue. Makes an American thankful for our democratic process that seeks for the best of equity and justice for all.

    Reminds Biblical students of the thorny issues of Moses' judicial days. His father-in-law's wisdom in advising him to allocate & delegate was priceless.

    Now if religious folks can remember to obey their founders' and prophets' peace initiatives, our world would be a more pleasant place. If fellow-Christians would emulate Paul's tact and debate-format in the marketplace of ideas (vis-a-vis Mars Hill), and obey our Lord's injunction to honor all men and governmental rule where possible, we would not see first amendment violations. No "Christian" student who agreed to deliver his valedictorian speech under authority's rules would violate his oath. And the "Christians" in the audience wouldn't break out in applause.

    Just put a Muslim doing the same thing with a Quranic passage there, and see the reaction reveal who are truly Christ-like.

    Public schools are for public education. No forced prayers should ever have been sanctioned.

  • BYU Track Star Los Angeles, CA
    June 17, 2013 10:32 a.m.

    Kudos to Matt Brown's article on School prayer and the 1844 Bible riots. I'll have to research this latter American Historical event more later. The idea of having High School classes offering a comparative religion class as an elective in High School. Is a good idea. I had a similair class in High School in the 70s. If I remember, we discussed Buddhism, Taoism and Existentialism. The Existentialism section really opened my eyes as a 16-17 year old. I closed them again when I went up to BYU a couple year later.

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    June 17, 2013 10:00 a.m.

    I'm often amazed at my conservative friends who still believe this ruling "expelled God from the classroom." They have a hard time understanding that "school prayer" quickly becomes "government selected and mandated prayer." Getting government out of the business of worship promotes religious pluralism. History shows that Mormon in particular would not do well in a society where the government decides what faiths are acceptable and which ones are not.

  • Florien Wineriter Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 17, 2013 7:11 a.m.

    Thank you Deseret News forf a fine explanation of the history of exempting partisan religion from public schools. I have been intimately involved the Utah;s Three R's progam which endorses the teaching of all religius history without endorseing any particular belief. I am a SLC Unitarian Humanist Agnostic.

  • IMAN Marlborough, MA
    June 17, 2013 7:10 a.m.

    Without question one of the most important, insightful, well though out,reasoned and correct decisions that the SCOUTUS ever handed down.