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Leo Pfeffer Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: JMB
Date: Nov 1978

Biographical History

Leo Pfeffer (1910-1993) was among the most prolific constitutional scholars of the late twentieth century. Pfeffer analyzed the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment from a "separationist" standpoint, arguing that this constitutional provision requires strict separation between church and state. From this perspective, government may offer no assistance to specific religions or religion in general. [From Encyclopedia of Religion in American Politics (1999)]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Leo Pfeffer Papers comprise 7 series: Conference transcripts, Published material, Legal material, Notes, Writings, General files, and Miscellaneous.

Conference transcripts include documents addressing subjects such as religious instruction and holidays in the public schools, church-state separation, and the Bill of Rights. The Published material is made up of pamphlets addressing civil rights and the separation of church and state. The Legal material series mainly comprises Litigation dockets, Court transcripts, and briefs. Notes include Index cards and a Notebook kept by Pfeffer. The Writings series comprises Essays, Magazine articles, Pamphlets, Journals, and Books. The General files series, making up more than half the collection, contains mostly Correspondence, plus some News clippings. Miscellaneous items include materials from a Bill of Rights conference and designs and proofs from Pfeffer's book, Church, State, and Freedom.

An expert on the United States Constitution, Pfeffer spent his career battling to preserve the fundamental American principle of Church-State separation. As a lawyer representing the American Jewish Congress, he authored Friend of the Court briefs for trials around the country. Most of the Legal material and General files therefore concern such issues as prayer in public schools, federal aid to parochial schools, and Sunday labor laws.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Pfeffer, Leo, 1910-1933.

Corporate Bodies

American Jewish Congress. -- Commission on Law and Social Action.


Church and state -- United States.
Civil rights -- United States.
Constitutional law -- United States.
Federal aid to education.
Freedom of religion -- United States.
Hungarian Americans.
Jews, American.
Lawyers -- United States.
Prayer in the public schools.
Religion and state -- United States.
Religion in the public schools.

Genres and Forms

Briefs (legal documents)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Galley proofs.
Legal documents.
Legal instruments.
Manuscripts for publication.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Leo Pfeffer Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents

Conference transcripts

Published material

Legal material



General files