A novelist could hardly have come up with a more wrenching scenario [than the Williams case] for a dispute over fundamental legal issues and basic social values.
—Silas Wasserstrom and Williams J. Mertens 1
Judicial decisions have been rendered more acceptable because of the belief that the Justices merely pronounce the law, deciding nothing.
—Alpheus Thomas Mason 2
December 24, 1968, was not unlike many previous Christmas Eves. Throughout the country people were involved in last-minute shopping, visiting relatives, going to church services, and waiting to open presents. In the theaters, moviegoers could see the Beatles’s Yellow Submarine, Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, Rock Hudson in Ice Station Zebra, and Walt Disney’s The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit. What made it distinguishable from other Christmas Eves was the “Merry Christmas” from the Apollo 8 astronauts on a lunar trip in space. However, this message of happiness and the spirit of the season were lost on the Merlin Powers family of Urbandale, Iowa, due to the events that had taken place that day.
On December 24, 1968, the Powers family—consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Merlin Powers, their fifteen-year-old daughter Vickie, their fourteen-year-