Edward L. Schempp, who with his wife filed a lawsuit that yielded a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on school prayer in 1963, died Nov. 8 in California at age 95.
In the late 1950s, the Schempps challenged the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania state law that required the reading of Bible verses at the start of each school day. The couple were Unitarians with three children in the public schools of Abington Township.
After the Schempps won at the federal appellate-court level, the school district appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. The high court consolidated the case with a school prayer lawsuit from Baltimore filed by the atheist Madalyn Murray and her son.
In School District of Abington Township, Pa. v. Schempp, the justices held that classroom religious exercises violated the First Amendment by failing to maintain "a position of neutrality" toward religion. —CAROLINE HENDRIE
Vol. 23, Issue 13, Page 4Published in Print: November 26, 2003, as death