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Historical Anniversaries

Why These Dates Are Important

June 4, 1985  
Wallace v. Jaffee
Alabama tried to reintroduce state-sponsored prayer into public school

The Supreme Court struck down any notion of state sponsored prayer in the public school, but paved the way for today's moment of silence laws by saying a neutral moment of silence, not being religious in nature, would be acceptable.

The dissenting justices in this case introduced the bizarre notion of "benevolent neutrality", giving that as a reason the prayer was constitutional, while Rhenquist, in a separate dissent, went so far as to say the Establishment Clause only forbids the nation's creating a national church or showing preference to one sect over another, themes which we are seeing more often in today's legal battles.

June 10, 1797  
Treaty of Tripoli
The Treaty of Tripoli was signed, claiming that the US is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.

The date of the signing by President John Adams of a treaty between the U.S. and "the Bey and People of Tripoli" that proclaimed on 10 June 1797 that "...the government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion..." This treaty was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and reprinted -- including the famous words -- in the newspapers of the day.

For more, please see

June 19, 1865  
Human Rights
The end of slavery in the US.
Slavery ends on this historic date due to the Emancipation Proclamation.

June 25, 1962  
Engel v. Vitale
The Supreme Court finds it is unconstitutional to require prayer in public school.

This case began in New York when the parents of ten students in the public school system sued to prohibit the forced recitation of a prayer written by the state to "Almighty God".

The majority opinion stated that the use of public schools to encourage prayer was "a practise wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause". The dissenting opinion in this case has been referred to in more recent rulings (cf. Wallace v. Jaffe on June 4). Basically, it says the First Amendment only prohibits the establishment of an official church and does not apply to other forms of religious expression.

June 28, 1712  
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Birthday
Philosopher (b. 1712)

Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born June 28, 1712 in Geneva, Switzerland.


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