Vashti Cromwell McCollum (1912–2006) was the first American to successfully sue to confirm that there is a separation of church and state as expressed in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The case (People of State of Illinois ex rel. Vashti McCollum v. Board of Education of School District № 71, Champaign County, Illinois, et al. 333 U.S. 203 (1948), aka McCollum v. Board of Education) sought to overturn a policy at the public school that McCollum's son attended which mandated Protestant Bible study in the classroom during school hours. (Catholics and Jews were allowed to attend their own Bible study classes during that time.)
As a non-believer, McCollum refused to allow her son to attend these classes. The school responded by sending her son to the principal's office during said Bible study periods, or required him to sit at a desk in the hallway that was intended for students with disciplinary problems.
Although she lost her case at the local circuit court and at the Illinois Supreme Court, the United States Supreme Court issued an 8-1 ruling in her favor.
McCollum later served as a president of the American Humanist Association (1962-1965).
- "The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today": Webpage for PBS documentary about the McCollum case
- New York Times obituary for Vashti McCollum
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