Murray v. Curlett Ruling: School Prayer Removed from School by Supreme Court

Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a militant left wing atheist with close ties to the American Communist Party, took the school board of Baltimore to court for allowing prayer in school. The local court judge J. Gilbert Pendergast dismissed the petition stating, “It is abundantly clear that petitioners’ real objective is to drive every concept of religion out of the public school system.” The case went to the Maryland Court of Appeals, and the court ruled, “neither the First nor the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to stifle all rapport between religion and government.”

The case was then heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Leonard Kerpelman addressed the court saying prayer in the public schools had been tolerated for so long that it had become traditional and that anything that is unconstitutional does not become constitutional through tradition. He went on to say the Constitution had erected a “wall of separation” between church and state, at which point Justice Potter Steward interrupted, asking where this wording appears. Kerpelman was stumped and an embarrassing silence followed. When he regained his composure, he stated that the text was not explicit on the point but that it had been interpreted to mean so.

Incredibly, the National Council of Churches and several Jewish organizations actually favored Madalyn O’Hair case! Not a single Christian organization filed a brief in support of school prayer, so the case went virtually uncontested before the Court. The Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in favor of abolishing school prayer and Bible reading in the public schools. Justice Tom Clark wrote, “religious freedom, it has long been recognized that government must be neutral and, while protecting all, must prefer none and disparage none.” Atheism has been recognized by the federal government as a religion, and this Supreme Court ruling preferred Secular Atheism, and therefore failed to be neutral as Justice Tom Clark suggested.  

A foot note on this case:  This case was centered around Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s son, William Murray.  Madalyn O’Hair was murdered in the 1990’s, and her son William Murray became a Christian and is now a pastor.  He now is an advocate for school prayer, and has written an excellent book on the subject, titled: Let Us Pray, A Plea for Prayer in Our Schools.  In this book you will find a detailed account of this case.

Read and except from his book on how the Communist removed School Prayer.

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