What is expected in some quarters to develop into an historic legal battle over the question of scripture reading in the public schools will begin some time next month when Corporation Counsel Arthur J. W. Hilly, representing the New York City Board of Education, will appear before Supreme Court Justice Valante to oppose Clarence Darrow and the Free Thinkers’ Society of New York who would prohibit the reading of Biblical quotations by teachers to children in the public schools of New York City. The Free Thinkers’ Society is headed by Joseph Lewis, who has brought the action as a taxpayer. Besides Mr. Darrow, other lawyers who will represent the Free Thinkers’ Society will be Arthur Garfield Hays, Joseph Wheless and Stephen B. Vreeland, while lawyers representing various clergymen of the principal denominations will assist Hilly in defending the right of teachers to read psalms and other part of the Bible.
If they are successful in barring the reading of the Bible from New York City schools, the Free Thinkers intend to carry their fight to other large cities, including Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. They claim that the law which permits the reading of the Bible without comment in the public schools, though it does not make such reading obligatory, is unconstitutional, since it introduces sectarianism and violates the principle of the separation of church and state.
In answering the complaint, Corporation Counsel Hilly points out that for seventy-six years the law has permitted Bible reading, which, he said, has an educational as well as an historic value. Though the Biblical quotations read in the schools contain excerpts from both the Old and New Testaments, Mr. Hilly points out that the city has never received any complaint from any Jewish congregation cencerning the reading of the Bible. Mr. Hilly denies that this procedure violates any provision of the Federal or New York state constitutions.