Chapter 247 of the Laws Passed at the Twentieth Session of Legislative Assembly of the State of North Dakota (1927) directed that placards of the Ten Commandments be posted in the classrooms of state supported schools. The law was ignored until 1979, when a Grand Forks resident, Wilma Belcourt, brought it to the attention of the school officials in Grand Forks, whom subsequently ordered the commandments to be posted.
A lawsuit was then brought by Benjamin Ring, Cynthia Hoekstra, James McKenzie and George Frein, claiming that the 1927 law violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution by sanctioning a specific religion. The plaintiffs were represented by Robert Vogel, a University of North Dakota law professor and former justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court, and Stephen Pevar of the American Civil Liberties Union. The Grand Forks School Board was represented by the North Dakota Office of Attorney General. The case was heard in United States District Court in Grand Forks by Judge Paul Benson.
A judgment in favor of the plaintiffs was handed down by Judge Benson on January 28, 1980. Both the Grand Forks School Board and the Attorney General decided not to appeal the ruling.
Donation; Acc. #80-652
OGLMC 1051, Robert Vogel Papers