Constitutional Law – Separation of Church and State – Bible Reading in the Public Schools

Plaintiffs, as parents of children in the public school system, sought to enjoin and have declared unconstitutional the practice of reading aloud to students each day ten verses of the Holy Bible as required by a Pennsylvania statute. The plaintiffs contended that this practice constituted an establishment of religion and a prohibition of the free exercise thereof and was therefore a violation of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. By a three-judge district court, held, for plaintiffs. The statute violated the United States Constitution because the Bible is essentially a religious book and the compulsory practice of reading from it to students as part of “morning devotions” amounts to a promotion of religious instruction by the state. Schempp v. School District of Abington Township, (E.D. Pa. 1959) 177 F. Supp. 398.