State’s high court opens new interactive learning center

State’s high court opens new interactive learning center

By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – In 1946, the Illinois Supreme Court heard a case that would eventually become a landmark in American legal history.

The public school district in Champaign, like many other districts in Illinois at the time, allowed a group of local religious leaders to use their schools to teach elective classes in religion and openly encouraged, and sometimes coerced, students to participate in them.

Vashti McCollum, an atheist and the mother of a Champaign student, complained, saying her son was ostracized by other students for not attending them. She eventually sued in state court claiming the use of public schools to teach religion violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

The Illinois Supreme Court rejected her claim, but the U.S. Supreme Court later reversed that decision, saying the practice violated the separation of church and state.

That’s one of the cases that visitors to the Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield can learn about and discuss at the court’s new learning center, which officially opened this week.

John Lupton, executive director of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, said at the opening that the learning center has hosted a few visitors, including a couple and their two children earlier this summer.

“And after looking at the controversial case, they began to debate the issue,” he said. “After their debate was over, one of the parents and one of the children agreed with the (state court’s) judgment, while the other parent and the other child disagreed with the judgment. This is exactly what we’re looking for.”

The building where the court now sits first opened in 1908 and it underwent a major restoration project in 2014. Lupton said the idea of the learning center had been discussed even before that restoration project, but because of budget issues, the state’s bicentennial in 2018, and later the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was delayed.

Now open, the learning center is on the second floor of the building, down the hall from the room where the court sits, in space that was once used by the Fourth District Court of Appeals. It was completed at a cost of about $130,000.

“We’re very excited about it,” Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis said in an interview. “It tells the story about the Illinois court system from 1818 to today.”

Lupton said the purpose of the learning center is to improve civic knowledge. One of the short-term goals, he said, will be to seek out civic education grants and partner with the Governor’s Mansion and the Capitol to provide tours for students visiting Springfield so they can learn about all three branches of state government.

“Studies consistently show that civic education increases civic engagement,” he said. “So during a tour of the Supreme Court building, in addition to seeing the courtroom and learning about the court’s important work, visitors will now end their tour at the learning center. And there they will learn about the important work of the court, explore the ways the court shapes our everyday lives and examine a few significant cases.”

Theis noted that courts are perhaps the least understood institution of government because most people have little or no contact with them. But she said it’s important for people to understand them so they will have trust in the court system.

“Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist 78, courts are the weakest branch of government because they have neither the power of the purse nor the power of the sword,” she said. “So where does the court’s power come from? It comes from trust.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association. 

 

Leave a Comment





Local News

Darth Vader and some friends were in attendance at the annual Fan Fest. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Library draws a crowd with Fan Fest

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Comic book lovers gathered together in one common space earlier this month. Oak Lawn Public Library hosted its eighth annual Fan Fest, an all-ages celebration of pop culture, on May 11 at the library, 9427 S. Raymond Avenue. “It’s wonderful to see the community come together in celebration of shared…

Palos Heights wants to chop down this tree, remove the greenspace and pave it over. (Photo by Nuha Abdessalam)

Navajo Hills residents want to save threatened cul-de-sacs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam Navajo Hills greenspace islands could be getting the ax and residents are upset. Residents of the East and West Courts of Navajo Hills, aware of the historical significance of the greenspace, spoke up during the Palos Heights City Council meeting May 21. There are five cul-de-sacs in the Navajo Hills…

regional ph summer concerts 2024

Summer concerts coming to Palos Heights

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam At the May 21 City Council meeting, Ald. Jeff Key shared exciting news about some of the summer activities coming to Palos Heights in the coming months. Key said the Concerts in the Park, a series of family-friendly events featuring live music, food vendors, and fun activities for all ages,…

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau speaks during the May 16 State of the Village Address. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Nerds and bullies among topics of Orland’s State of the Village

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva The 2024 Orland Park State of the Village Address was held at the Orland Park Civic Center, but it could have been held on a playground with talk of nerds and bullies and cool kids. Mayor Keith Pekau spent the first half hour “ripping off the Band Aid” of some…

Marist won the Marist Sectional and will play Payton on Friday, May 31 in the state quarterfinals. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Boys Volleyball | Marist tops Jones, advances to state quarterfinals

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent For the first time since 2019, Marist will play in the IHSA state finals. The RedHawks (36-2) beat Jones, 25-13, 25-13, for their 17th straight victory and a Marist Sectional championship on May 28 in Mount Greenwood. They will face Payton in the state quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. Friday,…

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound May 29, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love

Peggy Zabicki

Little things make a big difference in West Lawn

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 . Thank you to all who make a positive difference in West Lawn. There are some who are putting enormous efforts into making our neighborhood better and safer. We often hear about these good people and all…

Kathy Headley

Daina Cyvas again pedals with a purpose

Spread the love

Spread the love. Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 . As I’m sure you remember, in past years, Daina Cyvas, the Communications and Project Coordinator for the Sisters of St. Casimir, has participated in Bike MS. in honor of one of her heroes, SSC Sister…

Vintage cars will again be rolling in the La Grange Pet Parade. The 78th edition of the parade starts at 9:30 a.m. June 1. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Folks urged to enter costume contest for La Grange Pet Parade

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch About 40,000 people are expected along the streets of downtown La Grange on Saturday morning June 1, with some of them dressing in costumes for the 78th annual La Grange Pet Parade. A costume contest has long been part of the parade, Molly Price, the parade’s executive director, said on…

Deputy Supt. of Public Works Ken Tucker (from left), Trustee Tim Kovel, Building Commissioner Matt Struve, Mayor Ernest Millsap, Public Works Superintendent Jody Kovel, Trustee Jorea Touranjeau, Trustee Dominic Misasi, and Trustee Lida Mills at the site of the new public works office building. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Hodgkins breaks ground on new public works building

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan The Village of Hodgkins is getting ready to welcome a new public works office building at its facility off of 67th Street, east of East Avenue. Village officials and public works employees gathered last month for a groundbreaking. Hodgkins Mayor Ernest Millsap explained the history behind the Paul G. Struve Public Works Building.…

Neighbors

Darth Vader and some friends were in attendance at the annual Fan Fest. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Library draws a crowd with Fan Fest

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Comic book lovers gathered together in one common space earlier this month. Oak Lawn Public Library hosted its eighth annual Fan Fest, an all-ages celebration of pop culture, on May 11 at the library, 9427 S. Raymond Avenue. “It’s wonderful to see the community come together in celebration of shared…

Palos Heights wants to chop down this tree, remove the greenspace and pave it over. (Photo by Nuha Abdessalam)

Navajo Hills residents want to save threatened cul-de-sacs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam Navajo Hills greenspace islands could be getting the ax and residents are upset. Residents of the East and West Courts of Navajo Hills, aware of the historical significance of the greenspace, spoke up during the Palos Heights City Council meeting May 21. There are five cul-de-sacs in the Navajo Hills…

regional ph summer concerts 2024

Summer concerts coming to Palos Heights

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam At the May 21 City Council meeting, Ald. Jeff Key shared exciting news about some of the summer activities coming to Palos Heights in the coming months. Key said the Concerts in the Park, a series of family-friendly events featuring live music, food vendors, and fun activities for all ages,…

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau speaks during the May 16 State of the Village Address. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Nerds and bullies among topics of Orland’s State of the Village

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva The 2024 Orland Park State of the Village Address was held at the Orland Park Civic Center, but it could have been held on a playground with talk of nerds and bullies and cool kids. Mayor Keith Pekau spent the first half hour “ripping off the Band Aid” of some…

Marist won the Marist Sectional and will play Payton on Friday, May 31 in the state quarterfinals. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Boys Volleyball | Marist tops Jones, advances to state quarterfinals

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent For the first time since 2019, Marist will play in the IHSA state finals. The RedHawks (36-2) beat Jones, 25-13, 25-13, for their 17th straight victory and a Marist Sectional championship on May 28 in Mount Greenwood. They will face Payton in the state quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. Friday,…

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound May 29, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love

Peggy Zabicki

Little things make a big difference in West Lawn

Spread the love

Spread the love. By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 . Thank you to all who make a positive difference in West Lawn. There are some who are putting enormous efforts into making our neighborhood better and safer. We often hear about these good people and all…

Kathy Headley

Daina Cyvas again pedals with a purpose

Spread the love

Spread the love. Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 . As I’m sure you remember, in past years, Daina Cyvas, the Communications and Project Coordinator for the Sisters of St. Casimir, has participated in Bike MS. in honor of one of her heroes, SSC Sister…

Vintage cars will again be rolling in the La Grange Pet Parade. The 78th edition of the parade starts at 9:30 a.m. June 1. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Folks urged to enter costume contest for La Grange Pet Parade

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch About 40,000 people are expected along the streets of downtown La Grange on Saturday morning June 1, with some of them dressing in costumes for the 78th annual La Grange Pet Parade. A costume contest has long been part of the parade, Molly Price, the parade’s executive director, said on…

Deputy Supt. of Public Works Ken Tucker (from left), Trustee Tim Kovel, Building Commissioner Matt Struve, Mayor Ernest Millsap, Public Works Superintendent Jody Kovel, Trustee Jorea Touranjeau, Trustee Dominic Misasi, and Trustee Lida Mills at the site of the new public works office building. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Hodgkins breaks ground on new public works building

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan The Village of Hodgkins is getting ready to welcome a new public works office building at its facility off of 67th Street, east of East Avenue. Village officials and public works employees gathered last month for a groundbreaking. Hodgkins Mayor Ernest Millsap explained the history behind the Paul G. Struve Public Works Building.…