McCollum v. Board of Education Decision (Anniversary)

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, with a vote of 8 to 1. The lone dissent was from Justice Stanley Forman Reed, who objected to the breadth of the majority’s interpretation of the Establishment Clause.

The case was brought by Vashti McCollum (pictured), a mother in Champaign, Ill., on behalf of her son, Jim. In her enduring 1951 book about the challenge, “One Woman’s Fight,” she described how her son was punished by teachers and teased by students for not taking part in religious instruction illegally taught in his public school.

Although she lost at the first two court levels and was treated as “a very unpopular woman,” Vashti did not give up. Her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court resulted in a stunning victory for separation of church and state, which is still the prevailing precedent in public school law today. McCollum was an FFRF honorary board member. She died at age 93 in 2006.

Freedom From Religion Foundation