In Evans v. Selma Union High School District of Fresno County, 193 Cal. 54, 222 P. 801 (1924), the California Supreme Court permitted a high school to purchase 12 copies of the King James Bible for its library. In so ruling, the court decided that the purchase did not offend state constitutional provisions prohibiting “discrimination or preference” in religious profession or worship or prohibiting any state appropriation for sectarian purposes.

California Supreme Court allowed school to purchase Bibles for library

In a unanimous opinion, the justices of the California court pointed out that the school was purchasing the Bibles for reference rather than for devotional exercises — the issue the U.S. Supreme Court would later address in Abington School District v. Schempp (1963). The California court decided that the King James Bible was not a “sectarian” book.

In the process, it also stated that the Douai Version (chiefly used by Catholics) was not sectarian. Although the library was thus free to purchase “either or both” versions, the California high court did not, at least not in this case, have to choose between them.

Adding a book to a library does not imply the school approves the book's message

In implications for future cases involving library purchases, the justices observed that “[t]he mere act of purchasing a book to be added to the school library does not carry with it any implication of the adoption of the theory or dogma contained therein, or any approval of the book itself except as a work of literature fit to be included in a reference library.”

Send Feedback on this article