What’s It Like to Be Caught Up in an Atheist Lawsuit?
An Atheist Tells the Agony and the Elation
Of an Atheist Win in Supreme Court
One night when he was about five years old, Jonathan Engel was awakened in the middle of the night by police sirens howling, their rooftop lights blazing and firetrucks in the street. He was told that the trucks were here to put out a burning cross that had been placed on the front lawn of their neighbor, Larry Roth, who, along with Jonathan’s father, had started a lawsuit to take prayers out of the local schools.
“This was Long Island, not the deep South,” Engel says. It was 1962. Larry Roth and Steven Engel, Jonathan’s father, had just won their case in Supreme Court to take prayers out of the local school district. The two neighbors had pursued the case together, won together, and they suffered the retaliation of their opponents together. The Roths just happened to be the ones to get the Ku Klux-like burning cross on their front lawn.
Jonathan Engel grew up to be a lawyer himself. But he never forgot that middle-of-the night fear as he looked out of his window and saw the firetrucks. He is haunted, he says, by both the honor of being Steven Engel’s son, and appalled by the ugly retaliation he witnessed after the court case, Engel v. Vitale, won in Supreme Court, taking prayer out of local public schools forever.
Two Citizens Made History
Come on January 12th to the NYC Atheists’ Brunch to hear Jonathan Engel, now an attorney and consultant to non-profit corporations, tell how his father and their neighbor decided to fight for their rights as American citizens--and made constitutional history.
Come and hear what the two major concerns were for the Supreme Court Justices of 1962. Hear how the plaintiffs finally won, after first losing three times: they lost once in NY State supreme Court, then in the Appellate Division and then they lost for the third time in the NY State Court of Appeals. But the plaintiffs’ persistence paid off when, on the fourth try, the Supreme Court of the land concurred with them!
Honor Our Atheist Heroes
Let’s honor our Atheist heroes! Both Jonathan’s father, as well as Larry Roth and the other five plaintiffs in the Engel v. Vitale case deserve our respect and remembrance. Let us not forget the price they and their families paid in the ostracism, the hate calls and the threats they suffered afterwards. Let us understand that no gain for the civil rights of Atheists is achieved without a price.
Honor the New Year by paying homage to our Atheist activists and heroes!
WHAT: “How Two Neighbors Made Atheist History By Getting Prayer Out of Public Schools,” the story of the first Supreme Court success in fighting school prayer, a talk by Jonathan Engel, J.D.
WHEN: Sunday, January 12, 2014 - 12 noon
WHERE: THE PRESS BOX PUB & RESTAURANT - 932 Second Avenue (bet. 49th & 50th) - Second Floor
COST BRUNCH is $20, which includes a selection of Buffet Entrees and salad, soft drinks, coffee, tax and tip. We encourage seconds on the delicious Eggs Benedict.