Why did the US Supreme Court agree to hear Abington v. Schempp?

Abington Township v. Schempp involved a challenge to prayer in public schools as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court addressed the conflict between school prayer and the First Amendment Establishment Clause during the previous Term in Engel v. Vitale, (1962), but wanted to clarify some points that raised protests from certain members of the Christian public.

Specifically, the Supreme Court wanted to address concerns about their interpretation of the Establishment Clause prohibiting public schools from sponsoring prayer, because the decision departed from two hundred years of American tradition in which Christianity and public education were freely intermingled.

Some people objected to the Fourteenth Amendment applying the Establishment Clause to the states, and believed that the the First Amendment "forbade only governmental preference of one faith over another," but that the prohibition didn't extend to schools.

Justice William J. Brennan wrote an historically significant concurrence in Schempp that clearly explicated the religious traditions in American culture, the intention of the Founding Fathers when framing the Constitution, and the history and meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Brennan's opinion outlined the Supreme Court's reasoning in both Engle v. Vitale and Schempp, and helped lay the foundation for future decisions further separating church and state.

Case Citation:
Abington Township School District v. Schempp, 374 US 203 (1963)

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