Legendary state/church litigant Ellery Schempp on FFRF’s Sunday TV show

Ellery Schempp

Click here to watch the teaser.

One of the legends in Establishment Clause law is the guest on this week’s edition of “Freethought Matters,” the weekly public affairs talk show of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Ellery Schempp, a distinguished retired scientist, recounts how, as a 16-year-old high school student in the late 1950s, he helped forge constitutional law by protesting bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at his school. He and his family became the winning litigants in the landmark Supreme Court case, Abington v. Schempp, handed down in 1963.

The program begins with a historic excerpt of an interview of young Ellery, conducted by famed TV reporter Eric Sevareid in 1963. Ellery told Sevareid how he was sent to the principal’s office for challenging the religious rituals and was made to understand that he was in need of psychological help!

Now 82, Ellery confides to “Freethought Matters” host Dan Barker that his high school principal had even urged Tufts University, where he’d been accepted as an undergrad, not to accept the academically gifted young man because of his prayer protest.

“And so he called the dean and said I was the rotten apple in the barrel and if you admit him you’ll regret it forever and you should rescind his admission right away,” recalls Ellery, with a chuckle. “Dean Stearns told me it was the funniest conversation he ever had over admissions. And he was very kind to say he never regretted the decision.”

This is one of several “Freethought Matters” interviews with prime source litigants who took and won major cases against religion in the public schools, including Jim McCollum, Dan McCollum and Debbie and Dan Weisman.

If you don’t live in the quarter-plus viewership of the nation where the show broadcasts on Sunday, you can already catch the interview on the “Freethought Matters” playlist on FFRF’s YouTube channel. New shows go up every Thursday. You can also receive notifications when we post new episodes of “Freethought Matters” by subscribing to FFRF’s YouTube channel.

“Freethought Matters” airs in:

  • Chicago, WPWR-CW (Ch. 50), Sundays at 9 a.m.
  • Denver, KWGN-CW (Ch. 2), Sundays at 7 a.m.
  • Houston, KIAH-CW (Ch. 39), Sundays at 11 a.m.
  • Los Angeles, KCOP-MY (Ch. 13), Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
  • Madison, Wis., WISC-TV (Ch. 3), Sundays at 11 p.m.
  • Minneapolis, KSTC-IND (Ch. 45, Digital Channel 5.5), Sundays at 9:30 a.m. (Digital channel 5.2 has been dropped.)
  • New York City, WPIX-IND (Ch. 11), Sundays at 9:00 a.m.
  • Phoenix, KASW-CW (Ch. 61, or 6 or 1006 for HD), Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
  • Portland, Ore., KRCW-CW (Ch. 32), Sundays at 9 a.m. Comcast channel 703 for High Def, or Channel 3.
  • Sacramento, KQCA-MY (Ch. 58), Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
  • San Francisco, KICU-IND (Ch. 36), Sundays at 10 a.m.
  • Seattle, KONG-IND (Ch. 16 or Ch. 106 on Comcast). Sundays at 8 a.m.
  • Washington, D.C., WDCW-CW (Ch. 50 or Ch. 23 or Ch. 3), Sundays at 8 a.m.

Upcoming guests on the 2022 spring season include “out” nonbeliever Utah State Senator Derek Kitchen.

“Freethought Matters” is now in its sixth season. To watch earlier shows, including an interview with freethinker and feminist icon Gloria Steinem, by visiting the “Freethought Matters” playlist on FFRF’s YouTube Channel.

Please tune in to “Freethought Matters” . . . because freethought matters.

P.S. Please tune in or record according to the times given above regardless of what is listed in your TV guide (it may be listed simply as “paid programming” or even be misidentified). To set up an automatic weekly recording, try taping manually by time or channel. And spread the word to freethinking friends, family or colleagues about a TV show, finally, that is dedicated to providing programming for freethinkers!

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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