Most of Schempp's souvenirs from that period, including political cartoons, letters and articles his brother Roger assembled in scrapbooks, now sit in
boxes or on shelves in his home. At one point during an interview, Schempp walks over to what he jokingly calls his "I love me" wall, plastered with First
Amendment award plaques and a framed copy of his letter to the ACLU. He points to the award he's most proud of: his nomination to Abington High School's
Hall of Fame in 2002. He finds it amusing: His school recognized him for his contributions to science - not Supreme Court case law.
A high school classmate, Carol Dedov, said she and other honors students approved of Schempp's stand. "All of us thought of it as our cause," says Dedov,
who lives in Philadelphia and came to hear Schempp speak in February. Her former classmate made a huge difference even if many people do not know his name,
she says. She recently met a young child who goes to Abington schools and told the boy about the Ellery Schempp case.
"I said, 'Back in those days, we read the Bible in school,' and he said, 'They can't do that. It's against the Constitution.' The legacy is that he knew it
Yet, if anything, over time, the Supreme Court ruling has led to a bigger presence of religion in the schools and more student expression of religion, says
Charles C. Haynes, the First Amendment Center's senior scholar.
One of the most oft-quoted parts of the ruling is when Justice Tom Clark refuted the opponents' stance that without the religious exercises, schools would
then oppose or show hostility to religion. Rather, the justice wrote, "It might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of
comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. ... It certainly may be said that the Bible is
worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities."
It took a while, but by the late 1980s, educators started to reach consensus about how to teach religion. Guides were published about how to treat
religious holidays in the schools, how to teach students about religious traditions, and how to create equal access for organizations, including religious
clubs on campus. In 1995, roughly three dozen groups representing numerous faiths as well as a secular humanist organization designed a joint statement on
religious liberties, showing support for what could be done legally in the schools, and disputing the claim that schools were "religion-free zones."
It is now common for high schools to allow religious clubs, Haynes says. Furthermore, many schools across the country now offer courses about the Bible or
about the world's religions. All of this, he says, is part of the Schempp case's legacy.
Schempp says he thinks schools are better, at least, for religious minorities and non-believers, even if problems persist. He does insert himself when he
hears of teens battling against violations of the First Amendment - such as graduation prayer or banners emblazoned with a Christian prayer. He writes the
teens letters of support and if possible, speaks on their behalf.