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We do not hold that, because children do not pray in school, the schools are godless or antigod. The American public school system, which transcends differences of race and creed, embodies the God-given ideal of human brotherhood. Myriads of dedicated teachers convey by their very lives and work the ideal of consecration. The justice and cooperation manifest in the classroom are the ethical ideals of all the great faiths. The fair play and sportsmanship cultivated on school athletic fields are ideals effectively caught by example, rather than taught from a copybook. All these values so essential to the American way may be given cosmic rootage and theological support at home, in the church, and in the synagogue. We feel certain this would have been the stand of the fathers of our country as it was the stand of six Justices of the Supreme Court, two of whom derive their inspiration from Baptist churches, two from Presbyterian churches, one from Episcopal communion, and one from Roman Catholicism. Religion flourishes best when it is free of political alliances, as the state in a democracy must remain free of ecclesiastical direction. This means church-state separation as the first amendment states it. The words of the President of the United States express what we hope all Americans will come to recognize as the true consequence of the Supreme Court decision: “We can pray a good deal more at home and attend our churches with fidelity and emphasize the true meaning of prayer in the lives of our children. I hope, as a result of that decision, all Americans will give prayer a greater emphasis."
STATEMENT OF THE COMMISSION ON SOCIAL ACTION OF REFORM JUDAISM IN OPPOSI
TION TO SENATE JOINT RESOLUTIONS 205, 206, AND 207; SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 81 AND SENATE RESOLUTION 356
Submitted by Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, director, UAHC Religious Action Center
The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism is an agency of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Central Conference of American Rabbis, National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods, and National Federation of Temple Youth. These national bodies of Reform Judaism have consistently adopted resolutions in support of the principle of separation of church and state. In consonance with the spirit of these resolutions we testify in opposition to any constitutional amendment or to any resolution which would in any way tamper with freedom of religion as guaranteed by the first amendment.
We believe that the Supreme Court's decision in Engel v. Vitale, with all the footnotes included, constitutes an admirable summation of historic reasons for maintaining the first amendment intact. The decision of the Court needs no defense from us. It speaks for itself. It speaks for American democracy. It speaks for the preservation of religious integrity. It is on the latter point, the integrity of religion, that the major emphasis of this testimony shall be placed.
Prayer is the human soul in search of God. American Society is founded on the principle that every individual has a right to search for God and for truth and meaning in his own way. This is why in America individuals are free, if they so choose, to band together in different religious groups. These groups establish houses of worship in order to provide a more appropriate inspirational framework for their individual members. The house of worship and the home set the mood for prayer and religious practice. They recall significant occasions in the history of the group and in the life of the family and the individual. They establish the spiritual climate for transmitting the intimate and sacred experiences between the Supreme Being and human beings. In so doing they perform a unique function for the individual which no other institution is qualified or authorized to perform.
The adoption of the proposed resolutions would impede rather than facilitate the task of the religious institution and the home.
The regents' prayer, for example, was composed as a compromise, as an effort to be denominationally neutral. The sponsors of the prayer were careful to frame the wording so that no Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish child would be offended by any of the contents; but neither could any Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish child recognize the prayer as coming from his particular religious tradition.
The daily recitation of a nondenominational prayer, without comment by the teacher or discussion by the class, and without the appropriate and familiar environment conducive to prayer, can hardly be considered a meaningful religious experience by religionists or a meaningful educational experience by educators.
Nor is the daily recitation of a nondenominational prayer by an entire class of schoolchildren to be compared to the occasional offering of a prayer on a significant public occasion by a minister, priest, or rabbi, a clearly defined representative of a specific religion.
What is true for nondenominational prayer is true for Bible reading. We are in favor of reading the Bible as part of a course in great literature, but we are opposed to the daily reading of the Bible as part of an exercise in religious devotion. Furthermore, we reject the hypothesis that the Bible is nondenominational. Theological differences among Protestants, Catholics, and Jews have necessitated each group's authorizing its own translation of the Bible. These theological differences resulted in frequent and prolonged controversies in the 19th century, when in numerous instances Catholics asked the courts to ban reading of the King James Bible and when even Protestant groups fought among themselves as to which denominational translation should be declared nondenominational.
Although not included in any of the resolutions before this committee, a discussion of the Lord's Prayer has been a part of these hearings. We, therefore, feel constrained to state that under no circumstances would Jews ever consider the Lord's Prayer to be any but a Christian prayer. Whereas it is true that the ideas and the words are taken from Jewish tradition, nevertheless the form in which it is recited, the status attached to it and the associations it recalls are part of the Christian and not the Jewish tradition. The very title is Christian, “the Lord's" referring to Jesus and not to God as Jews conceive Him.
Three of the resolutions before this committee would ostensibly protect children of minority faiths or of no religious persuasion by stipulating that there should be no compulsory participation in prayer. In rejecting this concept of noncompulsion, we refer to the words of Justice Frankfurter in the McCollum case:
“Separation is a requirement to abstain from fusing functions of Government and of religious sects, not merely to treat them all equally. That a child is offered an alternative may reduce the constraint; it does not eliminate the operation of influence by the school in matters sacred to conscience and outside the school's domain. The law of imitation operates, and nonconformity is not an outstanding characteristic of children. The result is an obvious pressure upon children. * * *"
To love God is not to love an abstract, diluted, colorless, nondenominational classification. Belief in God is personal. It is intimate. It is passionate. It is based on the life experiences and environment of the individual and the group to which he belongs. The true religious experience is not a compromise and it is not neutral. Otherwise, there would be no legitimate differences between Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism, and the various groups would not engage in such arduous endeavors to preserve, perpetuate, and propagate their respective faiths.
Public school sponsorship of nondenominational religious exercises potentially establishes a new major faith-public school religion. For a brief but significant time during the schoolday, the school becomes a house of worship, the teacher becomes a religious leader, the class becomes a congregation, and the members of the school board are enshrined as founders of the new faith. How are the ritual, theology, and spiritual heritage of the new public school religion determined? Through divine revelation and interpretation by theologians? No, by public boards, commissions, and courts, elected or appointed through the secular, political process.
However, religion by definition, certainly as we have defined it in America, is one dimension of life which is not subject either to the political process or to majority and minority considerations. The Founding Fathers determined that the United States would be a secular state, meaning thereby that the institutions of religion and government would be separate. Supposing, to assume an extreme hypothesis, that 100 percent of Americans were devout members of the same religious denomination. The concepts of majority and minority religions would lose their meaning, but the concept of separation of church and state would retain its full vigor. Why? Because religion is a personal matter between every man and his God, and a man's conscience is violated when his religion becomes a matter of public concern. Because religion, as Madison stated, "flourishes in greater purity without than with the aid of government.” Because a religion which in any way is dependent on the state for its sanctions inevitably becomes dependent on the state for its values. When the highest values of religion become conterminous with the highest values of the state, two deleterious consequences develop: (a) Religious institutions lose their sense of independent moral judgment and dissipate their capacity to criticize society and state; and (6) religious groups are tempted to use the state to pursue their own sectarian objectives.
To a certain extent, these consequences are already manifest in the arguments used by opponents of the Court decision. Already opponents of the decision say, “Our Constitution * * * is not meant to impose on the majority the outlook of any minority.” Already they are unable to differentiate between acts of religious devotion and acts of patriotism containing references to the Deity. Already they offer amendments to change the structural relationship between religion and the state. To inculcate love of country through pledges and anthems is a legitimate function of the state. To inculcate love of God through prayer is an illegitimate intrusion by the state in the private life of an individual. Equating love of God with love of country can only diminish religion and distort the state.
The new public school religion worships a false god, who, like the pagan deities of old, demands of his subjects that they offer up words without deeds, conformance without performance and body without soul. To the defenders of this new idolatry, we address the words of the prophets, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? * * * Bring no more vain oblations * * * Yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear * * *.” Instead, “Put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, Cease to do evil; learn to do well; Seek justice * * *” (Isaiah, ch. 1). Instead, “It hath been told thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord doth require of thee: Only to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).
Those who support the various resolutions before this committee are properly concerned about the high rates of juvenile delinquency, crime, divorce, mental illness, the materialism and low moral standards of American society. Furthermore, they are aware that our entire democratic system is being tested in the maelstrom of international politics. In their concern, they have focused on the public schools, implying that somehow or other these faults in our society are the result of the "godlessness" of our public school system, or that somehow or other, the situation would change for the better, if only our public schools would implant in our children a greater awareness of religious values.
We share the concern for America's moral standards, but we cannot share the implications concerning the character, role, and function of the public school system.
We deny the allegation that the public schools are "godless.” God is not excluded from the classroom because His name is not invoked in formal prayer. To the contrary, He is present in the righteous expressions and deeds of both teachers and students. The finest moral lessons are set by example and the examples set by our teachers, most of whom are consecrated individuals, are in consonance with the noblest precepts of religion.
We deny the allegation that unless public education is grounded in an expressed belief in God, it is grounded in atheism. A host of surveys have indicated that religion in America has a higher status than religion in any other country in the modern world, that more people belong to religious institutions and attend services regularly than in any other country, and that 99 percent of Americans affirm a belief in God. If we compare these contemporary statistics to the statistics at the time of the American Revolution, which indicate that only 10 percent of the American people belonged to a church, we cannot help but conclude that religion has fared exceptionally well under the freedom granted to it by the first amendment. The fact that children do not pray in public schools does not mean that they will become atheists, any more than the fact that Congressmen rarely pray in the magnificent chapel set aside for them in the Capitol means that Congressmen are atheists. To state that our schools teach atheism is to deprecate the Nation's educators who, in the words of Dr. Hollis Caswell, president of Teachers College, Columbia University, maintain an "attitude in public schools toward religion (which) is universally friendly."
We deny the allegation that the public schools are in any way responsible for low moral standards. The American public school system has been an indispensable instrument for inculcating the virtues of citizenship and for molding citizens of virtue. But morality is not alone the responsibility of the school. The home, the church and synagogue, the street, the store, the sports activitiesin sum the entire life experience of a child—are responsible for the development of character.
In a study made by a Catholic educator, no difference in moral attitudes was noticed between Catholic students who attended parochial schools, where the theistic approach is used, and Catholic students who attended public schools, where the nontheistic approach is used (Carmen V. Diaz, doctoral thesis, Fordham University, 1952). In the final analysis, therefore, the moral standards of any child can be little more than a reflection of the moral standards of his total environment.
To expect that the mere rote recitation of a prayer in public school will strengthen the moral character of a child is to invest in prayer a signification contrary not only to most theologies, but to all scientific evidence and educational theory. To ask the home and church to assign one of their prime functions to the state is to weaken the initiative and sense of responsibility of the home and church. To foist religious education on the school can only result in confusion for the child and tension for school officials. Rather than remaining the bulwark of our democratic system, the instrument for welding together the diverse elements in American life, the public school will become the focus of intergroup divisiveness.
Let us not make a scapegoat of the public schools. Let not religious groups place the blame for low moral standards on the public schools, when these standards have developed during the very period of greatest expansion and burgeoning of religion in American history. Let us not make of our public schools a vicarious atonement upon whom we shall heap responsibility for our own shortcomings and our own failures to perfect ourselves and our fellowmen.
This present controversy can only serve to divert religion from its primary task—the creation of a better society for all men. Precisely because religion has such high status, there is a tendency to equate religion with everything good. Unfortunately, history, both past and present, does not warrant such a blanket assumption. In the past, in the name of religion, and with the authority of the state, men have perpetrated heinous crimes against humanity. In the present, in the name of religion, and ostensibly for the good of the state, some American citizens are "attacking windmills" and engaging in witchhunts. The polarization of religion as the embodiment of all good and of atheism as the embodiment of all evil intensifies the omnipresent danger of judging men by what they say they believe instead of by what they do.
Religion can retain its integrity only when it remains unencumbered by entangling alliances with any of the social, economic, or political instruments of society; only when it knows how to distinguish between God and country; only when it seeks to judge the world that is finite from the perspective of Him who is infinite.
We urge this committee not to initiate any action which would deprive religion of its integrity and democracy of its vitality.
RESOLUTION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE CONSTITUTION CLUBS & PARTY OF NEW YORK STATE FAVORING THE SUBMISSION TO THE STATES OF A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT WHICH WOULD RESTORE THE USE OF PRAYERS IN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Adopted September 4, 1962 (Headquarters : Richmond Hill, N.Y.) Resolved the Congress of the United States should submit to the States the following constitutional amendment:
"SECTION 1. The United States by their fundamental document, the Declaration of Independence, recognizes that this Nation was founded under God and His moral law, which are the security of the people's rights and liberties.
“Sec. 2. The several branches of the Federal and State Governments (legislative, judicial, and executive) and their several subdivisions shall commence each day with a prayer to Almighty God for divine guidance."
1. The basis of Western civilization is the recognition of a Creator of heaven and earth and the acceptance of His revealed moral law, and the natural law subsidiary thereto. These United States of America recognized and accepted this reality in its fundamental document, the Declaration of Independence, and they based their justification of separation from Great Britain on these funda
mentals; in that document they sought His support on the basis of His moral law for their cause, independence. Upon this document rests the existence of these United States : its right to exist in the past ; and its right to exist in the future. Upon it likewise rests the personal rights of every individual citizen ; these rights are deemed "inalienable" under moral law and its subsidiary moral law. Any denial of this fundamental concept of Western civilization, at once, denies the right of these United States to have come into existence, and destroys the personal rights and individual dignity of every citizen; indeed the citizen, as such, immediately ceases to exist, becoming instead a mere pawn of the state.
2. The first amendment did not and does not recognize “atheism" as a religion ; it merely denied to the Federal Government the right to decide how the individual citizens of the several States should worship God: the favoring of one sect over another. It did so by denying to the Congress the power to legislate in this realm, reserving it to the States. The first amendment, therefore, did not guarantee freedom of worship to the citizen body. The qualified citizens of each State continued in their authority to do as they deemed best. Indeed the tendency was away from established churches in the States, but some 30 years were to elapse after the adoption of the first amendment before the State of Massachusetts abandoned its restriction of the voting qualification to members of her esablished church: the Congregational. By the time the 14th amendment was adopted the qualified citizens of every State had been won to the principle of toleration toward all religious viewpoints, and the right of every citizen to worship God according to his own lights. This was a far cry from abolishing the recognition of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all our rights, of everything we deem dear, and of life itself.
3. About the time these United States were adopting the Declaration of Independence, Blackstone, the great English exponent of the common law (an attribute of Western civilization), declared that all secular law must conform to moral law, or else was invalid, null, and void. Since then, those who would subvert these Republics and reduce all of its citizens to abject servitude have concentrated a great part of their effort on undermining the religious foundation of these United States.
4. Therefore, it is necessary, urgently so, that recognition of God and His moral law be written into the "supreme law of the land”—the Constitution of these United States of America. This resolution of the Constitution Clubs & Party of New York State, adopted by its executive committee September 4, 1962, has this objective in view, and we believe that the above resolution provides an appropriate basis for considering the wording of the desired and needed amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
I would be very glad to testify on this resolution and the four points covered in its accompanying statement should the opportunity present itself. Respectfully yours,
WILLIAM ROBERT PLUMME,
Chairman, State Committee.
STATEMENT OF LAWRENCE X. CUSACK, ATTORNEY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE
OF NEW YORK My name is Lawrence X. Cusack. I am an attorney in private practice in the city of New York. I am privileged to appear before the committee as a representative of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of New York at the request of His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman, archbishop of New York, whose views are embodied in the following remarks.
After careful study, I have come to the conclusion that the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale, declaring unconstitutional the New York regents' prayer, was a grave error in judicial judgment, a decision out of line with the conscience and religious heritage of the American people and one which foreshadows an ominous tendency to undermine cherished traditions of this Nation. In my opinion, the error is too serious, the danger to our American institutions too immediate, to be left to the evolutionary process of corrective decisions by the Court itself. In my judgment, the indicated solution is an amendment of the Constitution. For reasons later stated, I respectfully submit that any such amendment should be directed to the underlying constitutional fallacy of the Court's decision-a misinterpretation of the no-establishment clause of the first amendment-rather than to the narrow issue of a voluntary. nondenominational prayer.