Forum on the Law
Supreme Court Hosts a Discussion of Cincinnati Bible War Case of 1873
An 1873 Supreme Court of Ohio case that helped frame the national debate about church/state relations well into the 20th Century will be the focus of a lecture by Notre Dame History professor Linda Przybyszewski on April 1.
Hosted by the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society and the Ohio Supreme Court, the Cincinnati Bible War discussion will take place at the Ohio Judicial Center , 65 S. Front Street in Columbus .
In 1873, the Ohio Supreme Court put an end to the Cincinnati Bible War, declaring the city's Board of Education could end Bible reading in its schools. The controversy had convulsed the city, riveted the eyes of the nation, provoked a petition drive, and then a lawsuit. Now, the Bible had lost. Or had it?
The decision pointed to the Ohio Constitution, but then offered its own Bible lesson: compulsory Bible reading violated Christ's Golden Rule. It was an unusual legal reasoning, but a powerful argument in a land dotted with church steeples.
It was attorney Stanley Matthews who returned to Ohio to argue the case for the school board and defended religious liberty in the name of Christianity. His own inspiration lay decades in the past when scarlet fever raged in Ohio . It was an epidemic that changed Matthews, Ohio law and religious liberty forever.
Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer said he hopes history buffs and legal scholars turn out to learn more about the case. "It is certainly interesting that a past decision of the Ohio Supreme Court - even one that is 136 years old - has a lasting impact still being talked about today," he said. "It just proves that the law today has its roots in the past."
For more information and to view a short video clip of Professor Przybyszewski discussing the case, visit www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/biblewar.
April 1, 2009