History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, June 17th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up on The World and Everything in It:  the WORLD Radio History Book. A decade ago this week, the world’s largest island earns self-rule.

Plus, 25 years ago today, a celebrity leads police on a two-hour, low-speed chase through Los Angeles.

EICHER: But first, the story behind a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Establishment Clause. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today just north of Philadelphia, in Abington Township, Pennsylvania. A state law from the 1920’s mandates that each school day begin with a public reading of at least 10 Bible verses. Many schools also include the Lord’s prayer before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 1956, a Unitarian student claims the practice violates his rights under the First and 14th Amendments. His name is Ellery Schempp:

SCHEMPP: I had come to see the Bible reading as fundamentally unfair. It was certainly unfair to all non-believers…

Audio from a 2013 lecture at Texas A&M University.

With the encouragement of his parents, Shempp writes a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union:  

SCHEMPP: I would vary greatly appreciate any information that you might send regarding possible union action and or aid in testing the constitutionality of Pennsylvania law…

The ACLU agrees to represent the Shempps. The case eventually ends up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

A documentary titled Ellery Schempp—The Man and the Lawsuit records Phillip Ward’s argument on behalf of the school district.

WARD: The Shempps weren’t required to believe or disbelieve anything. They didn’t have to be there when the Bible was being read.

But Shempp’s lawyer Henry Sawyer says that it is disingenuous for the school to claim they’re merely teaching morality and good citizenship:

SAWYER: What was done in Abington was a religious exercise. The Holy Bible had been singled out to be read, and required to be read, at the opening of each school day…

On June 17th, 1963, the high court rules 8-to-1 against the Abington School District. The landmark decision lays legal groundwork for future cases based on the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Shempp’s case is instrumental in shifting the debate from the “freedom of religion” to the “freedom from religion.”

SONG: The Lord’s Prayer — Sister Janet Mead (1973)

Next, June 17th, 1994, in Los Angeles, California:

GASCON: After a thorough investigation and analysis of the physical evidence [we] sought and obtained a warrant for the arrest of O.J. Simpson. Charging him with the murders of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.

More than two hours after a police deadline, LAPD Commander David Gascon holds a press conference.

GASCON: Mr. Simpson is out there and we will find him…

Late that afternoon, people begin calling law enforcement with Simpson sightings:

911 CALL: Highway Patrol. Um, yeah. I think I just saw O.J. Simpson on the 5 freeway…

Police use cell phone data to track Simpson and soon begin following a white Ford Bronco. Simpson is hiding in the back while his long-time friend Al Cowlings is behind the wheel.

COWLING: Right now we’re ok, but you got to tell the police to back off. He’s still alive, but he’s got a gun to his head…

News networks broadcast the low-speed chase as dozens of police pursue the football star. More than two hours and 75 miles later, they finally pull over at Simpson’s Brentwood home. Cowlings negotiates with police and O.J. Simpson is safely taken into custody.  

SONG: Made In America — Gary Lionelli

Simpson is acquitted of the double murder in 1995, but found liable for the deaths in a civil law suit two years later.

And finally, 10 years ago this week, June 21st, 2009, the world’s largest island takes another step toward independence, earning “self-rule.” BBC correspondent Leslie Kowalski attended the transition ceremony.

SOUND: A gun salute and the raising of the flag started an historic day in Greenland…

After more than two centuries as a colony and province of Denmark, Greenland had gained “home rule” in 19-79. That referendum led to the founding of a national parliament under Danish government authority.

But the self-governing referendum in 2009 grants the island control of its own policing, natural resources, and legal matters. Greenlandic is declared the official language.

SONG: [Greenlandic Choir]

Today, Denmark still directs foreign affairs and national defense for the island. It also underwrites a significant percentage of the island’s yearly budget. But as Greenland begins benefiting from the exports of its natural resources, its people hope to eventually gain complete independence from Denmark.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Time Magazine)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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