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Ellery's Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle over School Prayer

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0472108374
ISBN-10: 0472108379
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Editorial Reviews


"Solomon's fascinating and sweeping history of the legal fight over mandatory school prayers is compelling, judicious, and elegantly written. Fabulous!" -- David Rudenstine, Dean, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University

"Stephen Solomon's Ellery's Protest provides a brilliant analysis of a major Supreme Court decision that redefined the relationship between church and state almost a half century ago. This study goes well beyond simply offering a gripping account of the course of litigation that brought before the Justices the contentious issue of prayer and Bible reading in public schools, though the thoroughness of that account would merit careful reading by itself. Especially impressive is the author's deep probing of hitherto neglected sources, and invaluable primary material including extensive direct contact with the plaintiff, the `Ellery' of the book's title. Finally, and perhaps most impressive, is Solomon's careful placement of the issue and the case in a far broader context that is as critical to national life and policy today as it was four and a half decades ago when the high Court first tackled these questions." -- Robert O'Neil, Professor of Law, University of Virginia

About the Author

Stephen D. Solomon is founder and director of NYU's Program in Business and Economic Reporting. He has been a staff writer at Fortune and Inc. magazines, and a regular contributor to Fortune Small Business, the New York Times Magazine, and the New York Times Book Review. He is also co-author of Building 6: The Tragedy at Bridesburg, an investigation of cancer deaths among chemical workers. Solomon holds a J.D. from Georgetown University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (July 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472108379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472108374
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,552,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ellery Schempp was not a troublemaker. He was sixteen years old in 1956, a junior in high school with fine grades and no disciplinary problems. And yet he went to school after the Thanksgiving holiday determined to call attention to himself and to what he saw as unfairness within the school. It worked, and it wound him up in the Supreme Court. _Ellery's Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle over School Prayer_ (University of Michigan Press) by Stephen D. Solomon tells the story of how Ellery and his family conscientiously changed public policy, helping define how church and state were to be separated in American public schools. Solomon, who teaches First Amendment law, has not only told the story of the Schempp family and their protest and the legal ins and outs as their case went to different court levels, but also has given an account of church and state conflicts back through European history, and has summarized the challenges currently faced by a society and a Supreme Court that can never have a complete solution to what will always be an ongoing conflict. This is a great book bringing a vast subject into focus as its one particular court case plays out.

The Schempp name is not nearly as well known as that of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the fervent, loud-mouthed (and foul-mouthed) atheist whose similar suit was joined with that of the Schempps. They were not atheists, but Unitarians, who frequently discussed religious matters, especially the idea that government had no business supporting any particular religion or religious idea.
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Format: Hardcover
With Ellery's Protest, Stephen Solomon has written a compelling and thoroughly engaging account of how one Abington family, with the help of the ACLU, made history by convincing the Supreme Court to strike down Bible readings in the public schools in 1962. Solomon not only tells us the story of how the Schempp family's protest within the Abington public schools made it all the way to the highest court in the land, but he also paints a much broader historic landscape. Solomon traces the evolution of religious freedom in the U.S. (so different from Europe's history of bloody intolerance) and shows how the inclusion of the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment gave rise to this country's defining belief in the separation of church and state.

The story Solomon tells is riveting, in large part because he takes the time to describe the colorful minor characters that populate this story - people like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who sued the Baltimore schools and found herself and her son the target of vicious harassment and attack. (O'Hair's lawsuit reached the Supreme Court around the same time as the Schempp case and was considered along with it). Solomon vividly shows how such an historic decision hung on the leanings of one or two Supreme Court Justices, a timely reminder in an era when so many other civil liberties are at stake.
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Format: Paperback
In Ellery's Protest, Stephen D. Soloman, clearly brings out Ellery Schempp's intentions and the thrust of the lawyers who used his protest as a vehicle for changing the landscape of public schools. The issue is not so much about the free exercise of religion, as it is limiting the influence of Christianity in schools. The private conversations recorded here are very telling. Schempp was an atheist and strongly opposed to Christianity. His goal was to provoke his educators. For example, he chose to read the Koran during a Bible reading period, not because he believed it, but because of the reaction he knew it would cause. He was not disappointed.
Despite the title of the book, Soloman, a First Amendment lawyer, spends the bulk of the book providing a detailed background of other church and state education cases leading up to and following the Schempp Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Ellery, he has a larger point that he wants to make.
For many, the extensive treatment of the lines drawn between the King James Version of the Bible and the Roman Catholic Douay Version will seem artificial - and they are. They are simply two English versions. At this point in time the distinctions have lost much of their force and, in this, Soloman lives in the past. In his historical litany of the cruelty of Protestant educators toward Bible reading protesters, it would have been fairer to have pointed out that corporal punishment was widely used in schools for non-religious issues as well.
While Soloman is scathing of the Religious Right and conservatives, he missed an opportunity to take them to task for choosing their battles poorly (such as Goldsboro).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book thieme was what I had been interested in for many years, but the contents of the book was disappointing. It was not interestingly written. It's dull. I could write a better book on the same theme. Very disappointing.
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