The Edgerton Bible Case (formally State ex rel. Weiss v. District Board of School District No. Eight, 76 Wis. 177) was an important court case involving religious instruction in public schools in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The case was unanimously decided in favor of the appellants and declared that the use of the King James Bible in Edgerton, Wisconsin, public schools was unconstitutional sectarian education.

Weiss v. District Board
Seal of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court
Full case nameState ex rel. Weiss et al. v. District Board of School District No. Eight
DecidedMarch 18, 1890
Case history
Appealed fromWisconsin's 12th circuit
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting
Case opinions
Readings from the Bible in public schools constitutes sectarian instruction, in violation of Art. X, Sec. 3, and Art. I, Sec. 18, of the Constitution of Wisconsin
Decision byLyon
ConcurrenceCassoday, Orton



In the early days of Edgerton, Wisconsin, it was common practice for public school teachers to read aloud to their students from the King James Bible. In 1886, Roman Catholic parents protested about that to the school board, citing their belief that the Douay version of the Bible was the only correct translation for their children.[1]

After failing to convince the school board to end the practice, the parents—Frederick Weiss, W. H. Morrissey, Thomas Mooney, James McBride, J. C. Burns, and John Corbett—took their case to court. In November 1888, the circuit court judge, John R. Bennett, decided that the readings were not sectarian because both translations were of the same work. The parents then appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In State ex rel Weiss v. District Board 76 Wis. 177 (1890), 3, otherwise known as the Edgerton Bible Case, the judges overruled the circuit court's decision by concluding that it illegally united the functions of church and state.[2]

In 1963, the United States Supreme Court banned government-sponsored compulsory prayer from public schools (see Abington School District v. Schempp), and Justice William Brennan Jr. cited the Edgerton Bible Case in his decision.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b "Edgerton Bible Case". Wisconsin Historical Society. August 3, 2012. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  2. ^ "State ex rel. Weiss and others vs. District Board, etc. 76 Wis. 177 (1890)" (PDF). Wisconsin Court System. 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  3. ^ Shiell, Tim. "The Edgerton Bible Case". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.

Further reading