Doremus et al. v. Board of Education of the Borough of Hawthorne et al.
Decided on Mar. 3, 1952; 342 US 429


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Bible reading in public schools

B. Legal Question Presented:

Is a New Jersey's statute, which provides for the reading without comment of five verses of the Old Testament, unconstitutional?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"This action... sought to declare invalid a statute of [the] State [of New Jersey] which provides for the reading, without comment, of five verses of the Old Testament at the opening of each public-school day... No issue was raised under the State Constitution, but the Act was claimed to violate the clause of the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution prohibiting establishment of religion.

No trial was held and we have no findings of fact, but the trial court denied relief on the merits on the basis of the pleadings and a pretrial conference... The Supreme Court of New Jersey, on appeal, rendered its opinion that the Act does not violate the Federal Constitution, in spite of jurisdictional doubts." 

The US Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction without deciding the case on the merits.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Briefs of amici curiae supporting appellants were filed by Leo Pfeffer, Will Maslow and Shad Polier for the American Jewish Congress; and Kenneth W. Greenawalt, Martin A. Schenck, Arthur Garfield Hays, Morris L. Ernst and Herbert Monte Levy for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Heyman Zimel argued the cause and filed a brief for appellants.
Briefs of amici curiae supporting appellees were filed by Robert E. Woodside, Attorney General, and Harry F. Stambaugh for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Denis M. Hurley, Michael A. Castaldi, Seymour B. Quel, Daniel T. Scannell and Arthur H. Kahn for the City of New York on behalf of the Board of Education of the City of New York; and Albert McCay for the State Council of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics of New Jersey.

Theodore D. Parsons, Attorney General, and Henry F. Schenk, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for appellees and filed a brief for the State of New Jersey. Mr. Schenk also filed a brief for the Board of Education of the Borough of Hawthorne, appellee.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"There are two petitioners in this case: the parents of a high-school student and a New Jersey tax payer.

In the case of the parents of a child who attended a high school where Bible reading was practiced pursuant to the Act, the court stated that they did not have standing to sue anymore, because their child had graduated before the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case on appeal, making their case moot.

In the case of the taxpayer, the Supreme Court stated that the taxpayer had no standing to sue because he had not shown any "particular financial interest... that is, or is threatened to be, injured" by the reading of the Bible in school."

The US Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and did not decide the case on the merits.

Justice Vote: 3 Pro vs. Con

  • Douglas, W. Pro (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Con (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Clark, T. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Minton, S. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Vinson, F. Con (Joined majority opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Supreme Court of New Jersey; the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in a 3-6 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.