Abington School District v. Schempp (374 U.S. 203)

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Abington School District v. Schempp (374 U.S. 203)  (1963) 

Abington Township School District v. Schempp (consolidated with Murray v. Curlett), 374 U.S. 203 (1963), was a United States Supreme Court case argued on February 27–28, 1963 and decided on June 17, 1963. In the case, the Court decided 8–1 in favor of the respondent, Edward Schempp, and declared school-sponsored Bibl] reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional.

Court Documents
Concurring Opinions
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

374 U.S. 203

School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania, et al.  v.  Schempp et al.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

No. 142  Argued: February 27 and 28, 1963. --- Decided: June 17, 1963.[1]


Because of the prohibition of the First Amendment against the enactment by Congress of any law "respecting an establishment of religion," which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, no state law or school board may require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lord's Prayer be recited in the public schools of a State at the beginning of each school day — even if individual students may be excused from attending or participating in such exercises upon written request of their parents. Pp. 205-227.

201 F.Supp. 815, affirmed.

228 Md. 239, 179 A.2d 698, reversed.

John D. Killian III, Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, and Philip H. Ward III argued the cause for appellants in No. 142. With them on the brief were David Stahl, Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Percival R. Rieder and C. Brewster Rhoads.

Henry W. Sawyer III argued the cause for appellees in No. 142. With him on the brief was Wayland H. Elsbree.

Leonard J. Kerpelman argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioners in No. 119.

Francis B. Burch and George W. Baker, Jr. argued the cause for respondents in No. 119. With them on the brief were Nelson B. Seidman and Philip Z. Altfeld.

Thomas B. Finan, Attorney General of Maryland, argued the cause for the State of Maryland, as amicus curiae, urging affirmance in No. 119. With him on the brief were James P. Garland and Robert F. Sweeney, Assistant Attorneys General of Maryland. Richmond M. Flowers, Attorney General of Alabama, Robert Pickrell, Attorney General of Arizona, Bruce Bennett, Attorney General of Arkansas, Richard W. Ervin, Attorney General of Florida, Eugene Cook, Attorney General of Georgia, Allan G. Shepard, Attorney General of Idaho, William M. Ferguson, Attorney General of Kansas, Jack P. F. Gremillion, Attorney General of Louisiana, Frank E. Hancock, Attorney General of Maine, Joe T. Patterson, Attorney General of Mississippi, William Maynard, Attorney General of New Hampshire, Arthur J. Sills, Attorney General of New Jersey, Earl E. Hartley, Attorney General of New Mexico, Thomas Wade Burton, Attorney General of North Carolina, J. Joseph Nugent, Attorney General of Rhode Island, Daniel R. McLeod, Attorney General of South Carolina, Frank R. Farrar, Attorney General of South Dakota, and George F. McCanless, Attorney General of Tennessee, joined in the brief on behalf of their respective States, as amici curiae.

Briefs of amici curiae, urging affirmance in No. 142 and reversal in No. 119, were filed by Morris B. Abram, Edwin J. Lukas, Burnett Roth, Arnold Forster, Paul Hartman, Theodore Leskes and Sol Rabkin for the American Jewish Committee et al.; by Leo Pfeffer, Lewis H. Weinstein, Albert Wald, Shad Polier, Samuel Lawrence Brennglass and Theodore R. Mann for the Synagogue Council of America et al.; and by Herbert A. Wolff, Leo Rosen, Morris L. Ernst and Nancy F. Wechsler for the American Ethical Union.


  1. . Together with No. 119, Murray et al. v. Curlett et al., Constituting the Board of School Commissioners of Baltimore City, on certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, argued February 27, 1963.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).