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The Legacy Of William Bentley Ball

By Edward White1336168739000

One of the leading religious-rights litigators in this country was William Bentley Ball. He fought for the religious freedoms of Americans from the 1960s into the early 1990s.

A 1948 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School, William Ball was involved in some of the most important cases considered by the United States Supreme Court during the latter part of last Century. He passed away in 1999.

I recently had the honor to attend the dedication in Washington, D.C. of the William Bentley Ball Memorial Library, which houses his archive. I was the keynote speaker and provided the audience with an historical perspective of Ball’s legal work.

As correctly explained on the William Bentley Ball Memorial Archive website:

[Ball] stood for the primacy of parents in the education and nurture of their children and should be credited as a foundation stone in the modern school choice movement. In Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) he successfully defended an Amish family who refused to send their children to secondary school under the state’s compulsory attendance statute because of their deeply held religious convictions.

He established some of the legal precedent now being used for the defense of voucher or educational credits by the school choice movement through cases such as Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District (1993) where he successfully vindicated the right of a deaf Catholic school pupil to the assistance of a sign-language interpreter provided by the local public school district.

He was also a Pro-Life Advocate who heard the cry of those whom Blessed Teresa of Calcutta called “the poorest of the poor”, our first neighbors, children in the womb. His defense of the Right to Life as a fundamental human right was a polestar in his life work.

The website continues by noting that

the work and living legacy of William Bentley Ball must also continue. The nation he loved and served needs individuals who will stand against the rising tide of secularism and antagonism towards Christianity in our courts and legal institutions. We need those who can and will work tirelessly to provide a lasting defense of the inalienable rights, which our founders articulated. These rights cannot be conferred by government and must not be denied by government.

The dedication of a memorial library to William Bentley Ball was a fitting tribute to the man. I think an equally fitting tribute to him, and others like him, is to continue to advance their work and legacy. I am pleased to say that we, at the American Center for Law & Justice, are engaged in such efforts on a daily basis, here and abroad.

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