This chronology offers a list of selected dates related to the The Oregon School Case website.


Oregon adopts Initiative and Referendum.


World War One. Despite avowals to remain neutral during the conflict, the United States is pulled into the war by 1917. The ensuing wartime nationalism generates a climate of suspicion of the foreign-born, political dissenters, and others labeled "un-American."


In Atlanta, Georgia, William J. Simmons successfully revives the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), originally established in the aftermath of the Civil War in 1866. The revived KKK embraces anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish sentiment, in addition to its traditional anti-African American stance.


Oregon Federation of Patriotic Societies, committed to reducing Catholic influence in the state, forms.


Oregon legislature passes laws prohibiting public or private schools from teaching any subject besides foreign languages in any language but English. Social unrest following end of war coincides with founding of the Communist Party. A "red scare" focused on eliminating Communists arouses prejudice against immigrants, labor unions, and political radicals.


Masonic Grand Lodge of Oregon adopts a resolution of the Scottish Rite. Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction calling for compulsory public education. Meanwhile, the Oregon KKK responds enthusiastically to an appeal from national Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans for greater support of public schools.


Twice an amendment that would abolish Michigan Catholic schools is brought to the polls by anti-Catholic forces in the state. The amendment is defeated both times. Movements to pass similar measures in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Nebraska demonstrate the prevalence of anti-parochial school sentiment in the nation.


William Simmons and a group of KKK organizers recruit almost 100,000 paid members. By the early 1920s the Klan has more than 3 million members nationally, and has political power in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Oregon, among other states. Anti-Catholicism is a major theme among these KKK members.

Anti-Catholic measures, including bills forbidding the state from recognizing private schools as teacher training institutions and the prohibition of habit-wearing among nuns teaching in the public schools, are introduced into the Oregon legislature.

Spring 1922

Oregon Masons successfully circulate a compulsory public school law petition. The Oregon KKK claims 14,000 members.

Fall 1922

Oregon gubernatorial candidate and honorary Klansman Walter M. Pierce publicly supports the compulsory public education bill.

In addition to electing Pierce as governor, Oregon voters approve the Compulsory Education Law by a vote of 115,506 to 103,685. The laws prohibits parents and guardians from sending youth between the ages of 8 and 16 to any but the state's public schools and is due to take effect in 1926.


Supreme Court announces decision in Robert T. Meyer vs. Nebraska case; Justice James C. McReynolds reverses the 1919 Nebraska law requiring that English alone be the language of instruction in the public schools. The decision sets precedent for a future ruling in the Oregon School Case.

September 1923

The services of William D. Guthrie, a New York attorney, and Judge John P. Kavanaugh of Portland are secured by the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) to challenge the Compulsory Education Law.

December 1923

The Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary religious community is selected to represent the challenge to the Compulsory School Law in court. Judge Kavanaugh requests an injunction against the law in a Federal District Court in Portland. The Hill Military Academy joins Kavanaugh and the Sisters in the challenge to the bill.


Fueled by anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment, the Johnson Reed Act passes in Congress. The act curtails migration to the United States by establishing national quotas favoring newcomers from northern Europe over those from the southern and eastern parts of the continent.

March 1924

The injunction restraining the state of Oregon from putting the Compulsory Education Law into effect is issued by the United States District Court.

June 1924

The Attorney General of Oregon files an appeal against the injunction, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to rule on the case.


John T. Scopes is arrested for violating a state law prohibiting the teaching in public schools of any theory conflicting with the biblical version of creation. Though Scopes is convicted, the anti-evolution law is never enforced.

March 1925

United States Supreme Court hears Walter Pierce vs. Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

June 1925

Supreme Court sustains the decision of the Federal District Court, nullifying the Oregon Compulsory Education Law.

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