Illinois spawned a school prayer milestone in 1948 with McCollum v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court outlawed religious indoctrination in public schools.
But legal skirmishing over public education and religion has continued in the Land of Lincoln, and McCollum was far from the last school prayer lawsuit to be contested in Illinois.
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McCollum v. Board of Education
The atheist mother of a student in Champaign public schools sued the district in 1945 to stop religious education classes that were taught on school grounds by a local religious council.
Three years later, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that Champaign was advancing "religious instruction" through "close cooperation between the school authorities and the religious council," in violation of the First Amendment's prohibition against a government endorsement of religion. McCollum v. Board of Education has been cited in several subsequent cases over the decades as an influential test of constitutionality.
Hedges v. Wauconda
A Wauconda Junior High School student who belonged to an Evangelical church sued the school district when it moved to prohibit students from distributing religious materials on school property.
In 1992, a federal court struck down the school's policy because it unfairly singled out religious speech. But the court also ruled that public schools are a "closed forum," and therefore school administrators still have considerable leeway to limit speech and conduct, even if they cannot ban all religious material.
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Sherman v. Township High School District
A federal appeals court in 2010 upheld an Illinois law mandating a moment of silent reflecting at the start of the public school day, finding that compelling silence wasn't the same thing as compelling prayer. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 declined to hear an appeal of that ruling from a self-described atheist whose daughter attended Buffalo Grove High School.
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