Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, a staunch defender of the separation of church and state during his 24 years on the court, died March 4. He was 90.
Justice Blackmun, who served from 1970 until 1994 and was replaced on the court by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, wrote relatively few education-related opinions. But a notable exception was his majority opinion in a 1982 case, Washington v. Seattle School District No. 1, that struck down a Washington state ballot initiative that barred mandatory busing for desegregation.
In a concurrence to the court's 1992 ruling in Lee v. Weisman that prohibited clergy-led prayers at school graduations, Justice Blackmun wrote, "The mixing of government and religion is a threat to free government, even if no one is forced to participate."
Vol. 18, Issue 26, Page 4Published in Print: March 10, 1999, as Milestones