I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Ellery Schempp — a separation of church and state hero most famous for the 1963 Abington School District v. Schempp United States Supreme Court case which had deemed public school-sponsored Bible reading and prayer unconstitutional — this weekend at a commemorative event in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Schempp addressed freethinkers, church/state separation advocates, and others visiting the Midtown Scholar bookstore to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his victory which had profoundly impacted the United States and liberated public school students — religious and non-religious — from compulsory public school prayer and Bible reading.
Brian Fields — President of PA Nonbelievers and co-chair of the Secular Coalition for Pennsylvania — introduced the event and welcomed attendees. Dave Messner of the Interfaith Alliance, author and reporter Laurie Lebo, and PA Nonbelievers member Turk offered opening comments. Dr. Schempp then gave his talk — including discussion of church/state separation, reflections and recollections pertaining to his court victory, and much more — and answered questions from audience members.
Dr. Schempp’s speech revealed a very knowledgeable, humourous, dedicated, passionate, and fearless man who had the courage to speak up against injustice and weather the criticism and hatred from an extremely religious community. Dr. Schempp is an extremely effective and inspiring advocate who captured the attention of his audience and passionately relayed a very personal story.
Following events at Midtown Scholar, I ventured to Laurie Lebo’s spacious and comfortable Brewhouse Mountain Eco-Inn (graciously provided specifically and exclusively for this special occasion) for a post-event reception which included great food, discussion, and fellowship.
Dr. Schempp was very cordial, approachable, and interested in hearing about my activism which he had inquired about. I was honored to be invited by (and later meet) such a ‘giant’ in the secular community. I walked away with an even greater zeal for church/state activism and was happy to meet Dr. Schempp and other attendees.
While online discussion and communities may be great, it is no adequate substitute for face-to-face discussion paired with great atmosphere. I look forward to meeting Dr. Schempp and other church/state advocates, freethinkers, and skeptics at future events. I highly encourage people to step away from their keyboards and become active in local groups, state/national conferences, and other real-world events.
I am especially looking forward to future discussion with Dr. Schempp who agreed to appear on an upcoming July episode — not yet scheduled — of Brave Hero Radio and answer questions from live callers.
Consider watching the below video footage from the Ellery Schempp event recorded at the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg. Relive the experience or watch for the first time.
Enjoy and, as always, feel free to contribute to the comment section.
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