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Engel v. Vitale

Significance, Justice Black For The Majority Declares Public School Prayer Wholly Unconstitutional, Official State Prayer


Steven L. Engel, et al.


William J. Vitale, et al.

Petitioner's Claim

That an official state prayer, even though it is nondenominational and voluntary, violates the First Amendment prohibition against state establishment of religion.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

William J. Butler

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Bertram B. Daiker

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black (writing for the Court), William J. Brennan, Jr., Tom C. Clark, William O. Douglas, John Marshall Harlan II, Earl Warren

Justices Dissenting

Potter Stewart (Felix Frankfurter and Byron R. White did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

25 June 1962


The Supreme Court declared that the creation of an official state prayer was unconstitutional.

Related Cases

  • Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952).
  • Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985).


Seelye, Katharine Q. "House Rejects Drive to Allow Formal Prayer in the Schools."New York Times, 5 June 1998.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962