Friday, August 24, 2007

Church-State Landmarks In New Book and Movie

Two rather different historical events in the history of U.S. church-state relations are in the news because of a new book and a new movie. New York University law professor Stephen Solomon's new book, Ellery's Protest, (Univ. Mich. Press), examines the 1963 case, Abington v. Schempp, which struck down mandatory Bible reading and recitation of the Lord's Prayer in public school classrooms. Yesterday's Boston Globe reports on Ellery Schempp's life today, and recounts that the landmark litigation began after Schempp, as a high school student, protested by opening a copy of the Quran during Bible reading time.

Meanwhile, yesterday's Christian Science Monitor reports on the new movie, September Dawn, which is about to be released. The movie offers a fictionalized account of the 1857 "Utah War". That largely forgotten incident took place as the U.S. Army was marching toward Utah to confront Mormon leaders. A group of Mormons, aided by Native Americans, massacred 120 unarmed people in a California-bound wagon train. The paper reports that for the first time, the Mormon church is engaged in intensive research on the history of the event, and has featured some of the findings in the September edition of the church's magazine, Ensign.