Weiss v. District Board

In 1886, Catholic parents in Edgerton, Wis., protested the reading of the King James Bible during opening exercises in village schools. They considered the Douay version the only correct translation. When the school board refused to change, they sued on the grounds that daily Protestant readings contradicted Sec. 3, Article X of the Wisconsin Constitution that forbid sectarian instruction in the public schools.

The circuit court ruled in 1888 that the readings were not sectarian because both translations were of the same work. The parents appealed to the state Supreme Court. On March 18, 1890, it overruled the circuit court, concluding that bible reading constituted sectarian instruction and illegally united the functions of church and state. 

“There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed."

—Justice H.S. Orton, concurring opinion in Weiss v. District Board (March 18, 1890)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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