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THE REAL STORY OF HOW SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS BECAME PART OF AMERICAN LAW - AND THE COURAGEOUS WOMAN WHO MADE IT HAPPEN
She was called "that awful woman" by her neighbors, and "that atheist mother" by newspapers across the country.Her friends stopped returning phone calls rather than risk speaking with her.She was branded a communist, and the Illinois State Legislature nearly outlawed her and her husband from ever working at the state university again.She received up to 200 letters a day, some of the writers claiming they would pray for her; many wishing for much worse.
All because, in 1945, Vashti McCollum would file a historic lawsuit that would forever change the relationship between religion and public school in America - and turn this young housewife from central Illinois into an unlikely champion of the separation of church and state.
Winner of the prestigious Peabody Award and the American Bar Association"s Silver Gavel Award as the best 2011 TV program for fostering the public's understanding of law, The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today tells the compelling personal story of a pioneering feminist, the late Vashti McCollum, and how her efforts to protect her ten year-old son led to one of the most important and landmark First Amendment cases in U.S. Supreme Court history - the case that established the separation of church and state in public schools. The case is little-known by the contemporary American public, yet the McCollum decision continues to have important ramifications for current conflicts over the role of religion in government institutions - from displays of the Ten Commandments in government buildings to student-led prayers at public school graduation ceremonies, and more.
The film recounts what Vashti McCollum later described as "three years of headlines, headaches, and hatred," and the dramatic legal maneuverings that led to a decision that shocked the nation and made the McCollum family public enemy #1 of America's mainstream religious institutions, a household name.
"An exceptional film. Superb in situating the Court case in a historical context" says The American Bar Association. "Beautifully researched" according to the Peabody Awards, perhaps one reviewer described it best: "The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today (tells) a little-known story of a woman, a court case, and a movement that changed American society forever."
The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today is written, produced, and directed by Jay Rosenstein.
Narration by former M*A*S*H TV actor David Ogden Stiers.
Major funding by the Independent Television Service; the Office of the Chancellor, University of Illinois, Urbana; the Illinois Humanities Council.
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"An exceptional film. Superb in situating the Court case in a historical context." - American Bar Association
"The meaning of religious establishment snaps firmly into focus with this excellent documentary on the First Amendment. This engaging film reveals the great difficulty -- and ultimate satisfaction -- of challenging society's mores and settled law. Highly recommended." - Bruce Dierenfield, Professor of History, Canisius College
"An enlightening, compelling film that tells the important story of how one courageous woman stood up for the separation of church and state against all odds. Great for use in classes ranging from law and legal studies through religious studies and American history." - Avi Soifer, Dean, Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i
"A classic documentary-style production, telling a little-known story of a woman, a court case, and a movement that changed American society forever and for the better." - Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database
"A remarkable story of how one citizen's courage and idealism profoundly affected a nation's future, this is highly recommended." - Video Librarian full review
Bill Moyers' list of "Ten Documentaries of Champions of Social Justice"
Emmy Award, Best Historical Documentary, Mid-America region
Emmy Award, Best Writing, Mid-America region
Silver Gavel Award, American Bar Association - Best Television Program For Fostering the Public's Understanding of Law, 2010
Gracie Award, Outstanding Documentary - Local, Alliance for Women in Media
National PBS Broadcast
CINE Golden Eagle - Historical Non-Fiction Television Division
Bronze Telly - Documentary Category
Jay Rosenstein Jay Rosenstein is an independent producer, writer, and teacher who has been writing, producing, and editing documentaries since 1991.In 1997, he completed the widely popular In Whose Honor?, a 47 minute, nationally broadcast documentary that takes a critical look at the practice of using American Indian mascots and nicknames in sports. Among other awards, In Whose Honor? was one of only 19 programs selected for outstanding and distinguished coverage of race in broadcasting by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.Jay has also lectured and written extensively on the subject of American Indian mascots in sports, and has contributed a chapter to a book on Indian mascots called "Team Spirits," published in 2000 by the University of Nebraska Press. His companion radio piece to In Whose Honor? was named the best local documentary by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters in 1999.Other documentaries include the personal short Erased, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast on the Independent Film Channel, and won awards from the Ann Arbor and the Black Maria Film Festivals, and The Amasong Chorus: Singing Out, a profile of the Champaign, Illinois lesbian/feminist chorus "Amasong", which aired nationally on the PBS series "Independent Lens" in June of 2004.Jay holds a Master's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he is an Associate Professor of journalism.
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