The Warren Court

warren66.jpg (14630 bytes)

The Warren Court, 1966

Back row, L to R: Justices White, Brennan, Stewart, Fortas

Front Row, L to R: Justices Clark, Black, Warren, Douglas, Harlan


The Warren Court represented the high point of judicial activism from liberals. In our coverage of the Court, we're going to focus on one of the Court's most controversial decisions, Engel v. Vitale, which outlawed mandatory school prayer. The Court received more protest mail as a result of the Engel decision than for any case in history to that time.  To get a taste of the atmosphere before the Court, you can sample a recording of the oral proceedings. (Click on oral argument.)

secondary reading:

American Liberalism and the Warren Court's Legacy

Liberal commentary on the Warren Court

primary documents:

The NY Board of Regents authorized a short, voluntary prayer for recitation at the start of each school day, attempting to defuse the politically potent issue by taking it out of the hands of local communities. The blandest of invocations read as follows: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and beg Thy blessings upon us, our teachers, and our country." In the case, the Court confronted the question of whether the reading of a nondenominational prayer at the state of the school day violate the "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment.
For the decision, see the majority opinion of Justice Black, the concurring opinion of Justice Douglas, and the dissenting opinion of Justice Stewart. What opinion do you find the most persuasive? Why?