On this date in 1948, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, McCollum v. Board of Education, barring religious instruction in public schools was handed down.
“Separation means separation, not something less. Jefferson’s metaphor in describing the relation between Church and State speaks of a ‘wall of separation,’ not a fine line easily overstepped. The public school is at once the symbol of our democracy and the most pervasive means for promoting our common destiny. In no activity of the State is it more vital to keep out divisive forces than in its schools, to avoid confusing, not to say fusing, what the Constitution sought to keep strictly apart. ‘The great American principle of eternal separation’ — Elihu Root’s phrase bears repetition — is one of the vital reliances of our Constitutional system for assuring unities among our people stronger than our diversities. It is the Court’s duty to enforce this principle in its full integrity.”
—Justice Frankfurter, concurrence, McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 212 (1948)