MIAMI (Jul. 20)
Plaintiffs in a wide-ranging suit to bar religious practices in Dade county public schools submitted testimony today, on the third day of the trial, in support of their complaint that such practices were widespread in the public school programs.
Circuit Judge J. Fritz Gordon permitted the plaintiffs to proceed until all their testimony has been heard although it was apparent that the testimony could not be concluded by the deadline of noon today set by the judge.
The suits were filed by Harlow Chamberlain, an agnostic, three Jewish parents, and a Unitarian. Chamberlain is attacking the Florida state law requiring daily classroom readings from the Bible. The other plaintiffs want all religious observances barred from the schools, including celebrations of Christmas, Easter and Chanukah. They contend such observances and sectarian practices have undesirable effects on children from backgrounds of beliefs differing from those of the majority of their classmates.
In testimony yesterday, Mrs. Pearl Siegel said her Jewish child was “very unhappy and cried” over a Christmas celebration at her elementary school. Another Jewish parent, Mrs. A.H. Milmin, told the court that she did not like “to see Jewish children” sitting in class “and subjected to” daily devotional exercises during which references are made to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.
Dr. Joseph Hall, Superintendent of Schools, was the first witness this morning. Questioning by Bernard Mandler, counsel for plaintiffs, established that only 3,000 of the 148,000 children in the school system were attending after-school Bible classes and that the Bible classes were using public school facilities without charge.
It was also established that complaints had been made to the School Superintendent about a picture of Christ at Shenandoah Junior High School which had been presented to the school by a church group which had used school facilities for church purposes on Sundays, Dr. Hall testified he had made inquiry after receiving the complaints but had not ordered removal of the picture from the classroom where it was hanging.
Two other witnesses, both Christians, were called this morning. The two, former students at Edison Senior High School, testified that there had been an Easter program in the school this spring which depicted the Crucifixion, using a silkscreen behind which there was a silhouette of a figure on a cross.
Attorney Norman Goldstein of North Miami Beach testified he had protested the reading of the Bible by his child in school. He said he had been told that he could not have her excused from participation in the reading.