PHILADELPHIA (Sep. 17)
A United States District Court decision outlawing Pennsylvania’s Bible-reading law in public schools as unconstitutional and banning the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in schools was hailed today as a major victory for religious freedom.
The ten-year-old state law was deemed unconstitutional yesterday because it violated the First and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The law was tested in a suit filed by Mr. and Mrs. Edward L. Schempp against the Abington Township School District. The American Jewish Congress filed a brief as “friend-of-the-court” in the suit. The court decision was unanimous.
The law requires classroom reading often verses from the Bible each day, without teacher comment. The practice has been to follow this reading with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, both being part of a single exercise.
Benjamin B. Levin, president of the Delaware Valley Council of the AJC said children of minority religious groups “are faced with a dilemma when ever religion intrudes upon the public school. Not infrequently, Catholic and Jewish children will participate in Protestant religious practices in violation of their religious convictions and upbringing rather than subject themselves to the pain of not belonging.”