Often, great legal decisions result from the actions of an unknown person heroically opposing the system. "Ellery's Protest" details how one person's objection to mandatory school prayer became one of the most controversial cases of this century. The case of Abington vs. Schempp began its circuitous journey to the Supreme Court on November 26, 1956. That day, sixteen-year-old Ellery Schempp objected to his high school's compulsory morning prayer by sitting at his desk and reading silently from the Koran. Schempp was suspended from school for his actions. He and his parents subsequently sued the school system on First Amendment grounds. Their case was eventually taken up by the Pennsylvania chapter and then the national office of the ACLU, beginning a seven-year journey that culminated before the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren. Solomon's book tells the fascinating story of Schempp's case (and several others associated with it) from the perspectives of the litigants and their families, classmates and teachers; the attorneys; and even many of the judges and justices.
The Court's decision in Schempp's favor was one of the most important rulings on religious freedom in the modern era and prompted a backlash among religious and political conservatives that continues to this day.
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.