1.3 Religion in the Schools

Note: On March 8, 1948, the Supreme court of U.S. rendered a decision in the case of McCollum vs Board of Education of School District No 71, Champaign, Illinois. A parent didn’t want her child instructed in any faith and felt that non-attendance would single out her child, making her unlawfully uncomfortable. By a vote of 8 to 1, the court held that the program of religious instruction conducted on public-school time and within the physical structure of the public schools was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 5/5/48

A conference of Division Superintendents was held in Roanoke April 28-30. The State Attorney General felt that religious education as done in Virginia was still lawful. As a result, State Superintendent for Public Instruction Minor Miller asked for a fresh plan of action. The School Board of Loudoun County had already adopted a resolution on September 14, 1937 permitting religious instruction, but given recent events, Emerick planned to put the question again before the board at its meeting of May 11, 1948; but “are not in a position to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision.”

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 5/18/48

Letter from State Board of Education on certain aspects of educational practice, subject to Supreme Court decision. The Assistant Attorney General, Walter Rogers, did not feel “that the question of references made to the effects of religion on history and general living referred to in the elementary courses of study of the syllabi used in the teaching of biblical literature and history were effected by the Supreme Court Decision….”

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 5/25/48

NEA (National Education Association) newsletter on Supreme Court Decision. • 1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 5/31/48. Emerick letter to state Board of Education reporting on current religious educational practice in Loudoun County Public Schools. • 1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 7/9/48. Comment on McCollum case by Virginia Council of Churches. • 1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 7/13/48. Memo to Division Superintendents from Superintendent of Public Instruction on Weekday Religious Instruction.

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 8/10/48

School Board resolution on separating religious education from public schools. Releases students from non-compulsory religious instruction. Comment, would seem to ignore the thrust of McCullum.

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 9/10/48

Letter from State Board giving local school boards responsibility for deciding implementation of religious education. Reference is made to guidance by the Council of Churches.

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 2/11/49

Statement of Policy on Religious Education written by the International Council of Religious Education.

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 2/3/50

Letter rom Emerick concerning typical school practices regarding bible reading. Emerick noted that only in Lincoln were formal bible courses provided, the rest of religious instruction done at the discretion of teachers.

1.3 Religion in Public Schools: 6/73

Report on religious education in Loudoun County. Done by Robert Butt, Division Superintendent. “submitted by a committee appointed to study the possibility of including religious studies in the Loudoun County School System’s curriculum.” Members were Fred Drummond (Douglass elementary), Weldon Reeves and Alvin Sowards.

1.3 Religion in Public Schools 2017

Statistical study by Kathy, a volunteer with the Edwin Washington Project. Looked at the religious orientation of teachers during the early years of the Emerick Administration.

5.2 Discussion of Values and Religion

References to religion are found in a number of locations in the files.

Civil Rights:    This includes discussions about the Supreme Court’s decision that religion was not an appropriate topic for public schools, even when class attendance is voluntary.  See EWP Archives:  1.3 Religion and the Schools.

The County School Fairs Movement included religion.  In 1913, a booklet on County School Fairs authorized by the Superintendent of Virginia’s Public Instruction recommended a composition for children to write for a prize “Why the bible should be taught in the Public Schools.”  Source: EWP Archives: 15.21 Yr 1913  Bible Study in Public Schools.

We also have a number of news clippings.  See EWP Archives, Box 17. 17 Sample Clippings on Religion

Teacher Institutes:  Beyond the presence of prayers at the start of Colored Teacher Institutes, we didn’t find any references; however, the story was different for White Teacher Institutes.  Temperance Essays were studied by the white teachers.  Source: EWP Archives: 4.2A Minutes for White Teacher’s Institute for September 6, 1923.   The need for strong moral control of the students was in EWP Archives: 4.2A Minutes for White Teacher’s Institute for September 9, 1924.

Bible passages often were part of the school day’s opening in both Colored and white schools.

Employment Cards Showed Religious Preference:  A card tracked teacher qualifications and performance, as well as their career, meaning at which school they instructed.  This card also included a field of data to identify a teacher’s confession.  We did a statistical study on this, conducted by volunteer Kathy Reid.  The aspect for African-American teachers. is found in Colored Teacher Church Study (4.5-Teacher-Churches-Colored.pdf).  The aspect White teachers is found in White Teacher Church Study (4.5-Teacher-Churches-White.pdf)

A Conflict of Values: Sometimes cultural and religious values conflicted with school activity.  One example occurred in 1931 when the Ministerial Union of Loudoun County complained about certain dances and game  going on in the school which the religious leadership felt “should not conflict with instruction for Christian living as taught in the Sabbath schools of our different churches.  See ValuesPetition (valuespetition.pdf) of May 11, 1931.