A pioneer figure in church-state rulings

Woman who filed landmark lawsuit in 1945 dies
When Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1948 for the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, “The First Amendment has erected a wall between the church and the state which must be kept high and impregnable,” he was acting to bar required religious classes from public schools, in a case called McCollum v. Board of Education.

The high court would subsequently prohibit state-sponsored prayers in schools in a New York case (1962) and then rule against devotional Bible readings in classrooms (1963). The latter case involved, in part, objections by Madalyn Murray on behalf of her son.

Murray, who after remarrying took the name Madalyn Murray O’Hair, became the major figure held responsible (by her opponents) for “taking God out of the schools”—an epithet she welcomed while leading a controversial atheist organization.


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