Today in History: Engel v Vitale

| April 3, 2018

180402_News_219x365Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.”

April 3rd, 1962 marks the date when the landmark case of Engel versus Vitale was argued on the basis that it was unconstitutional for state officials to compose a school prayer and encourage its use in public schools. The simple prayer in question had been recited by public school students since 1958 in New Hyde Park, New York, until families, led by Steven Engel, of Jewish heritage, contested it violated their religious beliefs. With only seven Supreme Court justices presiding — Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Associate Justices Hugo L. Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., Tom C. Clark, William O. Douglas, John Harlan II, and Potter Stewart — the ruling on June 25th, 1962 effectively made it unconstitutional for prayer to be used in public schools. The issue, however, was still debated over decades to come, while “In God We Trust”,  adopted in 1956 as an alternative to “E plurals unum”, remains the official motto of the United States of America, both in courtrooms and on currency.

The following articles about the landmark case are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.



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