Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

Source: Claudia Carlen (ed.), The Papal Encyclicals 1740-1878 ( Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990), pp. 400-402. Latin text in Acta Sanctae Sedis, VI, 257-263.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

References for Document 102.


104
Board of Education. v. Minor (Extracts) December Term, 1872

Reflecting growing attack on the widespread practice of scripture reading in public schools, the Cincinnati Board of Education passed resolutions prohibiting religious instruction and reading of religious books, including the Bible, in the schools of the city. Opponents, decrying the impending "atheism" of the schools, asserted that Bible reading had been the practice in Cincinnati since the 1820s and that it was done without comment and from the version preferred by parents. They brought the case before the Superior Court of Cincinnati, which granted a perpetual injunction against the enforcement of the resolutions. Petition in error to the Supreme Court of Ohio resulted in a unanimous decision, written by Justice John Welch ( 1805-1891), reversing the Superior Court and upholding the Board of Education.

. . . We are not called upon as a court, nor are we authorized to say whether the Christian religion is the best and only true religion. There is no question before us of the wisdom or unwisdom of having "the Bible in the schools," or of withdrawing it therefrom. Nor can we . . . undertake to decide what religious doctrines, if any, ought to be taught, or where, when, by whom, or to whom it would be best they should be taught. These are questions which belong to the people and to other departments of the government.

The case. . . . presents merely or mainly a question of the courts' rightful authority to interfere in the management and control of the public schools of the state. In other words. . . . has the court jurisdiction to interfere in the management and control of such schools, to the extent of enforcing religious instructions, or the reading of religious books therein . . . ?

* * *

Counsel for the defendants in error . . . claim to derive this authority of the court from the last clause in section 7, article 1, in connection with section 2, article 6, of the state constitution, which are as follows:

-261-

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