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|Center for Teaching the Rule of Law|
Welcome to the Center for Teaching the Rule of Law Blog. This blog will be used by Center Staff to post articles addressing issues concerning the Rule of Law and how it is taught and understood in our communities, nation, and world.
Additionally, we will make daily posts on historical events in the History of the Rule of Law.
We invite your comments, but please keep it civil.
To return to the Rule of Law Website, click here.
June 17, 1963 – The United States Supreme Court rules 8–1 in Abington School District v. Schempp against requiring the reciting of Bible verses and the Lord's Prayer in public schools.
Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court decided 8–1 in favor of the respondent, Edward Schempp on behalf of his son Ellery Schempp, and declared that school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States was unconstitutional. The Abington case began when Edward Schempp, a Unitarian Universalist and a resident of Abington Township, Pennsylvania, filed suit against the Abington School District in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to prohibit the enforcement of a Pennsylvania state law that required his children, specifically Ellery Schempp, to hear and sometimes read portions of the Bible as part of their public school education. That law (24 Pa. Stat. 15-1516, as amended, Pub. Law 1928) required that "[a]t least ten verses from the Holy Bible [be] read, without comment, at the opening of each public school on each school day." Schempp specifically contended that the statute violated his and his family's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Pennsylvania law, like that of four other states, included a statute compelling school districts to perform Bible readings in the mornings before classes. Twenty-five states had laws allowing "optional" Bible reading, with the remainder of the states having no laws supporting or rejecting Bible reading. In eleven of those states with laws supportive of Bible reading or state-sponsored prayer, the state courts had declared the laws to be unconstitutional.
A related case was that brought by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, mother of plaintiff William J. Murray III (b. 1946), who filed suit against the local school system in Murray v. Curlett to prohibit compulsory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. In 1963, she founded the group American Atheists (originally known as the Society of Separationists). The Murray case was consolidated with Schempp's case on appeal to the Supreme Court.
During the first trial in federal district court, Edward Schempp and his children testified as to specific religious doctrines purveyed by a literal reading of the Bible "which were contrary to the religious beliefs which they held and to their familial teaching" (177 F. Supp. 398, 400). The children testified that all of the doctrines to which they referred were read to them at various times as part of the exercises. Edward Schempp testified at the second trial that he had considered having his children excused from attendance at the exercises but decided against it for several reasons, including his belief that the children's relationships with their teachers and classmates would be adversely affected.
The district court ruled in Schempp's favor, and struck down the Pennsylvania statute. The school district appealed the ruling. While that appeal was pending, the Pennsylvania legislature amended the statute to allow children to be excused from the exercises upon the written request of their parents. This change did not satisfy Schempp, however, and he continued his action against the school district, charging that the amendment of the law did not change its nature as an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Because of the change in the law, the Supreme Court had responded to the school district's appeal by vacating the first ruling and remanding the case to the district court. The district court again found for Schempp.
The Supreme Court upheld the District Court's decision and found the Pennsylvania prayer statute unconstitutional by virtue of the facts in the case, as well as the clear line of precedent established by the Supreme Court. In writing the opinion of the Court, Justice Tom C. Clark stated, "This Court has decisively settled that the First Amendment's mandate [in the Establishment Clause] has been made wholly applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment."
What was unexpected, however, were the ideas expressed in the second portion of Justice Clark's opinion written for the majority. The Court's recognition of religious ideals as valuable to the culture of the United States in that opinion are generally not cited much by either side of the church-state debate when discussing the case and the effect it had on the United States. Clark said that the Court was of the feeling that no matter the religious nature of the citizenry, the government at all levels, as required by the Constitution, must remain neutral in matters of religion "while protecting all, prefer[ring] none, and disparag[ing] none." The Court had clearly rejected "the contention by many that the Establishment Clause forbade only governmental preference of one faith over another." Justice Clark added, "We repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person 'to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.' Neither can it constitutionally pass laws or impose requirements which aid all religions as against non-believers, and neither can it aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs." Such prohibited behavior was self-evident in the Pennsylvania law requiring Bible reading (and allowing recitation of the Lord's Prayer) in its public schools. The Court recognized the value of such ideal neutrality from lessons of history when government and religion were either fully fused or cooperative with one another and religious liberty was nonexistent or seriously curtailed.
June 16, 1836 – The formation of the London Working Men's Association gives rise to the Chartist Movement.
The London Working Men's Association was an organization established in London on June 6, 1836. It was one of the foundations of Chartism. The founders were William Lovett, Francis Place and Henry Hetherington. They appealed to skilled workers rather than the mass of unskilled factory laborers. They were associated with Owenite socialism and the movement for general education.
Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform in Britain that existed from 1838 to 1857. It took its name from the People's Charter of 1838 and was a national protest movement, with particular strongholds of support in Northern England, the East Midlands, the Staffordshire Potteries, the Black Country, and the South Wales Valleys. Support for the movement was at its highest in 1839, 1842, and 1848, when petitions signed by millions of working people were presented to the House of Commons. The strategy employed was to use the scale of support which these petitions and the accompanying mass meetings demonstrated to put pressure on politicians to concede manhood suffrage. Chartism thus relied on constitutional methods to secure its aims, though some became involved in insurrectionary activities, notably in South Wales and in Yorkshire.
The People's Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:
June 15, 1877 – Henry Ossian Flipper becomes the first African American cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy.
Henry Ossian Flipper (March 21, 1856 – April 26, 1940) was an American soldier, engineer, former slave and in 1877, the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, earning a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He was also an author who wrote about scientific topics and his life experiences.
After his commissioning, he was assigned to one of the all-black regiments in the U.S. Army, which were historically led by white officers. Assigned to 'A' Troop under the command of Captain Nicholas M. Nolan, he became the first nonwhite officer to lead buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. Flipper served with competency and distinction during the Apache Wars and the Victorio Campaign, but was haunted by racially-motivated rumors alleging improprieties. Eventually, he was court-martialed and dismissed from the U.S. Army.
Flipper had been the quartermaster of his regiment and was in charge of paying the soldier's wages and for mess supplies and other transactions. When a Colonel William Rufus Shafter, an officer who disapproved of blacks being given officer rank, took command of the regiment, he immediately relived Flipper of this duty. Several days later, Shafter asked Flipper to take charge of the regimental safe until a new quartermaster was appointed. Flipper soon discovered that during the time the safe had been under Shafter's control $2,000 in regimental funds had gone missing. Flipper recognized that he was being set-up to make it appear that he had stolen or misappropriated the funds, but was essentially powerless to do anything.
Following Flipper's arrest, many soldiers and community members raised money to cover he discrepancy. Although Shafter accepted the funds, he proceeded with the court martial. At the trial, Shafter introduced evidence that Flipper had developed a platonic relationship with the daughter of previous acting commander of the regiment in contravention of regulations of black soldiers "associating" with white women
After losing his commission in the Army, Flipper worked throughout Mexico and Latin America and later as an assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. He retired to Atlanta in 1931 and died of natural causes in 1940.
In 1994, his descendants applied to the U.S. military for a review of Flipper's court-martial and dismissal. A review found the conviction and punishment were "unduly harsh and unjust" and recommended Flipper's dismissal be changed to a good conduct discharge. Shortly afterwards, an application for pardon was filed with the Secretary of the Army, which was forwarded to the Department of Justice. President Bill Clinton posthumously pardoned Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper on February 19, 1999, 118 years after his conviction.
Canada's first trade union, the Labourers' Benevolent Association (now International Longshoremen's Association Local 273), formed in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1849. The union was formed when Saint John's longshoremen banded together to lobby for regular pay and a shorter workday. It would be 23 more years before trade unions were officially recognized by law and collective bargaining was not protected by law until 1945. Canadian unionism had early ties with Britain and Ireland. Tradesmen who came from Britain brought traditions of the British trade union movement, and many British unions had branches in Canada. Canadian unionism's ties with the United States eventually replaced those with Britain.
The post-World War II era also saw an increased pattern of unionization in the public service. Teachers, nurses, social workers, professors and cultural workers (those employed in museums, orchestras and art galleries) all sought private-sector collective bargaining rights. The Canadian Labour Congress was founded in 1956 as the national trade union center for Canada.
In the 1970s the federal government came under intense pressures to curtail labour cost and inflation. In 1975, the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau introduced mandatory price and wage controls. Under the new law, wages increases were monitored and those ruled to be unacceptably high were rolled back by the government.
Pressures on unions continued into the 1980s and '90s. Private sector unions faced plant closures in many manufacturing industries and demands to reduce wages and increase productivity. Public sector unions came under attack by federal and provincial governments as they attempted to reduce spending, reduce taxes and balance budgets. Legislation was introduced in many jurisdictions reversing union collective bargaining rights, and many jobs were lost to contractors.
June 13, 313 – The decisions of the Edict of Milan, signed by Constantine the Great and co-emperor Valerius Licinius, granting religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire, are published in Nicomedia.
The Edict of Milan was long believed to be the February AD 313 agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire. Western Roman Emperor Constantine I and Emperor Licinius, who controlled the Balkans, met in Mediolanum (modern-day Milan) and, among other things, agreed to change policies towards Christians following the Edict of Toleration issued by Emperor Galerius two years earlier in Serdica. The Edict of Milan gave Christianity legal status and a reprieve from persecution but did not make it the state church of the Roman Empire. That occurred in AD 380 with the Edict of Thessalonica.
The Edict is popularly thought to concern only Christianity. In fact the Edict expressly grants religious liberty not only to Christians, who had been the object of special persecution, but to all religions
The document is found in Lactantius' De Mortibus Persecutorum and in Eusebius of Caesarea's History of the Church with marked divergences between the two. Whether or not there was a formal 'Edict of Milan' is no longer really debated among scholars who generally reject the story as it has come down in church history.
The version found in Lactantius is not in the form of an edict. It is a letter from Licinius to the governors of the provinces in the Eastern Empire he had just conquered by defeating Maximinus later in the same year and issued in Nicomedia on June 13, 313.
Since the fall of the Severan dynasty in AD 235, rivals for the imperial throne had bid for support by either favoring or persecuting Christians. The previous Edict of Toleration by Galerius had been recently issued by the emperor Galerius from Serdica and was posted at Nicomedia on 30 April 311. By its provisions, the Christians, who had "followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity," were granted an indulgence. Their confiscated property, however, was not restored until 313, when instructions were given for the Christians' meeting places and other properties to be returned and compensation paid by the state to the current owners.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights was drafted in 1776 to proclaim the inherent rights of men, including the right to reform or abolish "inadequate" government. It influenced a number of later documents, including the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and the United States Bill of Rights (1789).
The Declaration was adopted unanimously by the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg, Virginia on June 12, 1776 as a separate document from the Constitution of Virginia which was later adopted on June 29, 1776. In 1830, the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Virginia State Constitution as Article I, but even before that Virginia's Declaration of Rights stated that it was '"the basis and foundation of government" in Virginia. A slightly updated version may still be seen in Virginia's Constitution, making it legally in effect to this day.
Ten articles were initially drafted by George Mason circa May 20–26, 1776; three other articles were added in committee, seen in the original draft in the handwriting of Thomas Ludwell Lee, but the author is unknown. James Madison later proposed liberalizing the article on religious freedom, but the larger Virginia Convention made further changes. It was later amended by Committee and the entire Convention, including the addition of a section on the right to a uniform government (Section 14). Patrick Henry persuaded the Convention to delete a section that would have prohibited bills of attainder, arguing that ordinary laws could be ineffective against some terrifying offenders.
Mason based his initial draft on the rights of citizens described in earlier works such as the English Bill of Rights (1689) and the writings of John Locke. The Declaration can be considered the first modern Constitutional protection of individual rights for citizens of North America. It rejected the notion of privileged political classes or hereditary offices such as the members of Parliament and House of Lords described in the English Bill of Rights.
Edmund Pendleton proposed the line "when they enter into a state of society" which allowed slave holders to support the declaration of universal rights which would be understood not to apply to slaves as they were not part of civil society.
The Declaration consists of sixteen articles on the subject of which rights "pertain to [the people of Virginia] ... as the basis and foundation of Government." In addition to affirming the inherent nature of rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety, the Declaration both describes a view of Government as the servant of the people, and enumerates its separation of powers into the administration, legislature, and judiciary. Thus, the document is unusual in that it not only prescribes legal rights, but it also describes moral principles upon which a government should be run.
June 11, 1837 – The Broad Street Riot occurs in Boston, fueled by ethnic tensions between Yankees and Irish.
The Broad Street Riot was a massive brawl that occurred in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 11, 1837, between Irish Americans and Yankee firefighters. An estimated 800 people were involved in the actual fighting, with at least 10,000 spectators egging them on. Nearby homes were sacked and vandalized, and the occupants beaten. Many on both sides were seriously injured, but no immediate deaths resulted from the violence. After raging for hours, the riot was quelled when Mayor Samuel Eliot called in the state militia. In the wake of the riot, Boston's police and fire departments were established.
Boston was a major center for immigration in the 19th century due to its large seaport. Nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment was strong, especially among working-class men whose jobs and wages were threatened by an influx of poor Irish immigrants. On Broad Street, it was common for groups of nativist Yankees to vandalize Irish homes and attack lone Irishmen. In 1832, Mayor Charles Wells received a petition "praying that some measures may be taken to suppress the dangerous riots, routs, and tumultuous assemblies in and about Broad Street."
At the time of this particular riot, nearly all of Boston's firefighters were volunteers. The city had a policy of paying whichever company was first to arrive on the scene. As a result, the volunteer fire companies were intensely competitive, as well as notoriously undisciplined, and often fought with each other. In 1834 the entire company attached to Engine 13 was dismissed for disorderly conduct. The volunteers were nearly all working-class "Yankees", meaning American-born Protestants. Boston also had no police department, only a City Marshal with a small number of night watchmen.
The June 11 riot started when a group of Yankee firefighters who were ending their shift encountered a large procession of Irish heading to a funeral. One of the Yankees, who was reportedly drunk, shoved on of the Irish and a general melee ensued. Although no immediate deaths resulted from the violence, a Yankee fireman was knocked unconscious, and false reports of his death caused the rioting to escalate. A local paper announced the following Monday, "There have been many battered and broken heads, and many bodily bruises; but we are inclined to believe there has been no actual loss of life."
June 10, 1963 – The Equal Pay Act of 1963, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex, was signed into law by John F. Kennedy as part of his New Frontier Program.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a United States labor law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on gender.
In passing the bill, Congress stated that sex discrimination:
• depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency;
• prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources;
• tends to cause labor disputes, thereby burdening, affecting, and obstructing commerce;
• burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce; and
• constitutes an unfair method of competition.
The law provides in part that "[n]o employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section [section 206 of title 29 of the United States Code] shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs[,] the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex."
American women’s salaries have risen relative to men's since the EPA’s enactment, from 62.3% of men’s earnings in 1979 to 81.1% in 2018. The EPA’s equal pay for equal work goals have not been completely achieved, as demonstrated by the BLS data and Congressional findings.
In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, permitting women to sue employers for unfair pay up to 180 days after receiving an unfair paycheck. On 29 January 2016, he signed an executive order obliging all companies with at least 100 employees to disclose the pay of all workers to the federal government, with breakdowns of pay by race, gender, and ethnicity. The goal is to encourage employers to give equal pay for equal work by increasing transparency.
The Gaspee Affair was a significant event in the lead-up to the American Revolution. HMS Gaspee was a British customs schooner that had been enforcing the Navigation Acts in and around Newport, Rhode Island in 1772. It ran aground in shallow water while chasing the packet ship Hannah on June 9 near Gaspee Point in Warwick, Rhode Island. A group of men led by Abraham Whipple and John Brown attacked, boarded, and torched the ship.
British officials in Rhode Island wanted to increase their control over trade—legitimate trade as well as smuggling—in order to increase their revenue from the small colony. But Rhode Islanders increasingly protested the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, and other British impositions that had clashed with the colony's history of rum manufacturing, maritime trade, and slave trading.
On June 9, Gaspee gave chase to the packet ship Hannah, but Gaspee ran aground in shallow water on the northwestern side of the bay on what is now Gaspee Point. Her crew were unable to free her and Dudingston decided to wait for high tide, which would possibly set the vessel afloat. Before that could happen, however, a band of Providence men led by John Brown decided to act on the "opportunity offered of putting an end to the trouble and vexation she daily caused." They rowed out to the ship and boarded her at the break of dawn on June 10. The crew put up a feeble resistance in which they were attacked with handspikes and Lieutenant Dudingston was shot and wounded in the groin. The boarding party casually read through the ships papers, before forcing the crew off the ship and lighting it aflame. Most of the men involved were also members of the Sons of Liberty.
This event and others in Narragansett Bay marked the first acts of violent uprising against the British crown's authority in America, preceding the Boston Tea Party by more than a year and moving the Thirteen Colonies as a whole toward the war for independence.