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Case Basics
Docket No. 
School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania, et al.
Murray v. Curlett, No. 119
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
(Argued the cause for the appellees)
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
Facts of the Case 

The Abington case concerns Bible-reading in Pennsylvania public schools. At the beginning of the school day, students who attended public schools in the state of Pennsylvania were required to read at least ten verses from the Bible. After completing these readings, school authorities required all Abington Township students to recite the Lord's Prayer. Students could be excluded from these exercises by a written note from their parents to the school. In a related case -- Murray v. Curlett -- a Baltimore statute required Bible-reading or the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at open exercises in public schools. Murray and his mother, professed atheists -- challenged the prayer requirement.


Did the Pennsylvania law and Abington's policy, requiring public school students to participate in classroom religious exercises, violate the religious freedom of students as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Decision: 8 votes for Schempp, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion

The Court found such a violation. The required activities encroached on both the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since the readings and recitations were essentially religious ceremonies and were "intended by the State to be so." Furthermore, argued Justice Clark, the ability of a parent to excuse a child from these ceremonies by a written note was irrelevant since it did not prevent the school's actions from violating the Establishment Clause.

Cite this Page
ABINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT v. SCHEMPP. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 31 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1962/1962_142>.
ABINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT v. SCHEMPP, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1962/1962_142 (last visited August 31, 2015).
"ABINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT v. SCHEMPP," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 31, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1962/1962_142.