Sisters and the Trials of Separation

Kathleen Holscher

in Religious Lessons

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199781737
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979653 | DOI:
Sisters and the Trials of Separation

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This chapter recounts the trial of Zellers v. Huff. For a nine-day stretch in 1948 a courtroom in Santa Fe was the setting for a contest that pitted the interests and motivations explored in this book directly against one another. Attorneys from Washington came face to face with New Mexico’s residents—most visibly with dozens of Catholic sisters who took the witness stand and spoke about their teaching. This chapter’s emphasis is on the dispiriting test sisters faced as they tried to translate their teaching into legally defensible categories. Just as the NCWC was ill prepared to offer a defense of publicly employed sisters, the women themselves were unable to conform—either in principle or in practice—to the church–state separation standard the plaintiffs and the court demanded. Embarrassed on behalf of sisters who had suffered public humiliation at trial, and unwilling to allow them to teach in secular classrooms, the superiors of most of the communities involved in New Mexico recalled their members from work in the state.

Keywords: Zellers v. Huff; Catholic sisters; church–state separation; trial; witness stand

Chapter.  11507 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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