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(3) The National Council of Churches has expressed a concern for how public schools deal with religion. When approving the establishment of a department of religion and public education in its division of Christian education, the General Board of the National Council of Churches said:
"In the services to be provided by this proposed department, every attempt will be made to strengthen the distinctive and appropriate educational roles of the home, the church, and the State school respectively. The home and the church must assume their primary roles as teachers of religion. That is, to them is committed the responsibility of nurturing and instructing children in religious commitment, faith, and discipleship. No agency of the State, including the school, can safely or wisely be entrusted with this task.”
"At the same time, we believe that the public school has a responsibility with respect to the religious foundations of our national culture. It can declare, as the State itself declares, that the Nation subsists under the governance of God and that it is not normally autonomous. It can acknowledge, furthermore, that human ethical and moral values have their ground and sanction in God.
"The school can do much in teaching about religion, in adequately affirming that religion has been and is an essential factor in our cultural heritage.
"The school can bear witness to its appreciation of the place of religion by the personal characters of those who teach in its classrooms.
"No impairment of the separation of church and state is involved in the assumption of such responsibilities. Nor is the basic responsibility of the home and church in any way lessened. It is as committed persons gather in churches and as they build homes that the most effective agencies of religious education are made possible. Moreover, as committed persons teach in or administer the public schools, they can exert religious influence by their character and behavior.
“The committee believes that as the people of our American communities seek to enrich the life of their schools and as they seek to explore the rightful and proper place of religion therein, they will be wise to avoid reliance upon legislative compulsion. Religious testimony and religious exercise especially are significant to the extent that they are free and voluntary.
“We assume that these preliminary observations with regard to religion and public education will be supplanted in time by more comprehensive statements with regard to church-state relationships which will provide a general council policy within which the department of religion and public education and all other units of the council will operate.” 3
The department of religion and public education just mentioned provides staff for the committee on religion and public education which I serve as chairman. I am one of two appointees to this committee from the Methodist Board of Education, the other being a layman from Mount Vernon, Ill., Dr. J. Lester Buford. This committee is 1 of more than 70 program units in the national council. Our committee has at present 110 members whose appointments were made by 21 denominations, 23 State councils of churches, and 10 units of the National Council of Churches having related concerns. The committee on religion and public education is at work in the development of “more comprehensive statements with regard to church-state relationships which will provide a general council policy.”
Our committee sponsored a national conference on religion and public education in St. Louis in 1955; there with the assistance of representative persons from within and without the constituency of the council our committee sought to define the issues. For your information, I file a report of that conference, a reprint from the International Journal of Religious Education of February 1956, attached as exhibit I. The problems thus defined were carried to the attention of our constituent denominations and councils, and discussed in those circles for a 3-year period.
Then our committee on religion and public education began to try to answer the questions as to how public schools should be expected to deal with religion. As one step in this process, a study document entitled “Relation of Religion and Public Education" was returned to our constituents for further study over another 3-year period. For your information, I file with you a copy of that study document, calling to your attention the explanations on front and back covers which show the process by which we seek to reach consensus. This is a reprint from the International Journal of Religious Education, April 1960, pages 21–36, inclusive, and is labeled "Exhibit II.” I hope my explanation has made clear that our committee paper does not speak officially for
3 “Church-State Issues in Religion and Public Education," a pronouncement adopted by the general board May 20, 1953, 13.1-1.
the National Council of Churches, but hopefully it serves as a step in the process toward such a statement of position from the council.
Our committee on religion and public education is now engaged in reviewing the reactions received from members of our constituency and from others in the American community whose advice we sought. From that process, we hope in the near future to report to our parent bodies our recommendations as to what church people should expect from public schools in dealing with religion, and on how our church efforts in religious education may be coordinated with the education given in public schools to many of our youthful members.
The National Council of Churches on June 8 of this year authorized a national study conference on church and state to be held February 4-7, 1964, in which problems of the public schools in dealing with religion will be considered in the context of total church-state relations.
(4) The National Council of Churches has expressed its support of the principle of separation of church and state, and its concern for religious freedom and other freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, the amendment of which is contemplated by the current legislative proposals. The statements which seem to me most pertinent follow:
"Separation of church and state was established as a distinguishing characteristic principle of American democracy by our Constitution. It has become an essential feature of the structure of our society, the cornerstone of our religious liberty, which is the most basic of all liberties. Guaranteeing equality of rights to the various sects, with discrimination against none, it has been an essential feature of our way of life, which has been blest with tolerance and unity. Our people, though gathered from many nations, with different cultural and religious backgrounds, have been singularly free from religious strife.
"As Christians believing in the freedom of conscience and as Americans believing in our national traditions, we are deeply and resolutely committed to the separation of church and state as a sound principle amply verified by our experience.
"In the Christian view, man is a creature of infinite worth in the sight of God, endowed with God-given rights. All men, and Christians in particular, are responsible to God and to their fellow men for the defense of these rights. Among these rights are freedom of peaceable association and assembly and freedom of speech. From the Christian point of view, neither the state nor any group of men within the state can presume to grant or deny these fundamental rights.
“The freedom of one is the freedom of all."
"Religious liberty and indeed religious faith are basic both historically and philosophically to all our liberties.
"The National Council of Churches holds the first clause of the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States to mean that church and state shall be separate and independent as institutions, but to imply neither that the state is indifferent to religious interests nor that the church is indifferent to civic and political issues.
"The National Council of Churches defends the rights and liberties of cultural, racial, and religious minorities. The insecurity of one menaces the security of all. Christians must be especially sensitive to the oppression of minorities.
“Religious and civil liberties are interdependent and therefore indivisible.
“The National Council of Churches urges the churches because of their concern for all human welfare to resist every threat to freedom.
“The general board approves the position * * * with reference to the Draft International Covenant of Human Rights as follows:
"To support the principle of parental right (a) in choosing for their children schools other than those established by the state; and (b) in determining the religious education of their children as generally elaborated in article 28, paragraphs 8 and 9, of the Draft International Convenant of Human Rights.
4"A Brief on Diplomatic Representation at the Vatican,” a pronouncement adopted by the general board, Jan. 17, 1951, 29.1-1.
5 "Freedom of Association,” a pronouncement adopted by the general board Dec. 5, 1957, 17.3-1.
B "Religious and Civil Liberties in the United States of America," a pronouncement adopted by the general board Oct. 5, 1955, 17.2–1.
"The general board also approves the following policy:
“That all the substantive provisions contained in article 13 be retained as essential in the final draft of the International Covenant on Human Rights.
“NOTE.-Article 13 of the Draft International Covenant of Human Rights in its present form reads as follows:
"'1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right shall include freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
" 2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such Jimitations as are pursuant to law and are reasonable and necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedom of others.'"?
A phrase in one proposed amendment seems to make relevant a pronouncement of the National Council of Churches on the proposal under consideration in 1959 for a “Christian amendment” to the Constitution of the United States. The explanation is so much a part of that pronouncement that I found it difficult to abstract, so I attach its full text as exhibit III.
(5) Within a context of consideration of efforts for peace between nations, the National Council of Churches has spoken on Federal-State relations, as follows:
"Leadership toward world community requires justice in our own national community. Full respect for the United States rests upon our own respect for the dignity and equality of all our citizens before the law.
"All social structures, being human, have built-in weaknesses. Although authoritarian forms may display outward solidarity, societies which are morally based and self-disciplining are capable of an inward strength of purpose denied to other forms. The Christian is concerned primarily with the moral force and vision requisite to generate such inward strength.
"One essential element is vigorous action to secure equality of opportunity for all citizens in education, in civic and economic rights, and before the law. The national interest in building a community of freedom is paramount to local action inconsistent with that interest. States rights are entitled to respect in our federal system. Nevertheless, States owe a duty to respect the human rights which the federal system guarantees and the international standards affirm.
“These moral requirements have a direct and practical application to U.S. foreign policy. New states and emergent peoples are engaged in a struggle for social stability, without undue loss of human diversity and freedom. The traditions of the United States classically embody this universal aspiration. But our present national patterns of behavior profoundly affect our international power of persuasion.
“We, the people of the United States, owe it to ourselves to grasp the opportunity—perhaps the last we shall be accorded in foreseeable history-to help lead mankind toward a universal dominion of justice and peace.” 8
(6) The National Council of Churches believes that the churches have a responsibility for religious education. That has been mentioned in No. 3 above, and finds expression elsewhere:
"Spiritual security can be achieved only by strengthening the Nation's faith in God. The responsibility for deepening this faith rests with the churches.
"For all ages, but especially for children and youth, the churches face a challenge to provide Christian education. This involves not only nurture in the content of the Christian faith but also an understanding of the requirements of that faith for all areas of conduct and human relationships. Individuals must be helped to become wise, loyal, and eager disciples of Christ.”
(7) On July 5, 1962, the National Council of Churches through the office of its General Secretary Roy G. Ross made inquiry of its constituent denominations as to whether any action had been taken during the past 10 years by the plenary bodies of the denominations "which would deal with issues of religion and public education or which have implications of such issues.” I attach the most relevant portions of the responses received to this date by the New York office.
? "Approval of Article 13 of the Draft International Covenant of Human Rights," adopted by the general board Nov. 28, 1951, 17.1-1.
8 "Toward a Family of Nations Under God; Agenda of Action for Peace," a pronouncement adopted by the general board June 2, 1960, 25.2-3.
9 "Investigative Procedures in the Congress of the United States," a pronouncement adopted by the general board Mar. 17, 1954. 14.1-2.
10 "The National Council of Churches Views Its Task in Christian Life and Work," a pronouncement adopted by the general board May 16, 1951, 9.1-6.
Many of the denominations have launched extensive studies of church-state relations, of which the current problem is one aspect. Among these are the Methodist Church, the Protestant Episcopal Church, and the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Baptist bodies are cooperating in such studies through the Baptist Joint Council, and the National Lutheran Council has such studies underway for its constituents. State and city councils of churches are participating in similar studies.
I anticipate that the recent Supreme Court decision and your current legislative proposals and hearings will provide added stimulus to such studies. Any proposal to amend the Bill of Rights will surely warrant full consideration by the American people, and church people will have a particular interest in any proposal affecting the guarantees of religious freedom embedded in the first amendment.
I thank you for your interest in and consideration of points of view in the National Council of Churches.
EXTRACTS FROM STATEMENTS OF DENOMINATIONAL BODIES FILED IN RESPONSE
TO REQUEST JULY 5, 1962, FOR INFORMATION OF ACTIONS DEALING WITH ISSUES OF RELIGION AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
On July 5, 1962, General Secretary Roy G. Ross of the National Council of Churches made inquiry of constituent denominations as to whether any action had been taken during the past 10 years by the plenary bodies of the denominations “which would deal with issues of religion and public education on which have implications for such issues.” Relevant items of which notice has thus far been received include the following:
A. THREE COMMENTS ON THE REGENTS' PRAYER DECISION 1. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Board of Bishops, July 1962:
"Most of us came up in a public school system that permitted prayer every morning. It is therefore prohibitive for us to understand or sympathize with the recent Supreme Court decision denying the privilege of prayer in public schools.
"If we are to be governed by the majority opinion in this country, the Protestant opinion is certainly that, and it is undemocratic to deny the majority influence of a country for the opinion of the minority. Gradually religious privi. lege has been proscribed and segregated in favor of minorities in the name of democracy. It is not apparent that anybody's privilege is denied by prayer in the public schools.
"The contention of parents of these minorities that the State had not constitutional rights to direct the use of prayer in the public schools, or to order recitation of a particular prayer because these were actions of official agencies of government, were in violation of the amendment to the Constitution which provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion'; this being made applicable to the State government by the process clause of the 14th amendment, it seems to us, is beside the question.
"The simple prayer: ‘Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country,' has invaded no rights of any true religion. Every religion acknowledges a Supreme Deity or a universal principle to whom or to which all of them pray; one meaning, by 'Almighty God,' a person, the other meaning the principle of love. It is the same practice of using the Bible as a composite symbol of religion in taking the oath of office or the oath of testimony in courts. We might as well deny the President the right to use the Bible for taking his oath of office as to deny opening minds of undirected children the right to call God's name in the dedication of their unfolding lives or wishing and beseeching divine help upon themselves, their parents, teachers, and country from a power beyond all of us, which cannot be perfectly defined by any of us.
"The Supreme Court, we feel, missed its way when it sought itself to become an interpreter of religious meanings through the political crucible. God is above politics and laws, both of man's making and of nature's unfolding. All our efforts of realizing Him may be definitive in a million ways by individuals and groups, but in faith's assumption it is one grand effort of us all to implore one great source and reality of supernatural help whatever may be the terms and theology of the small units. It does not affect true faith of anybody to have one universal faith to which the whole creation' and the whole human race moves. “Our Nation will miss the way if she does not permit her children to look upward and outward beyond human strength and wisdom together. It is this togetherness in religion that will make a people one, and as long as we teach that God is atomistic, so long will it be impossible to teach people to believe that they are 'one nation indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.'”
2. The Rumanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, 1962: "The Congress of the Rumanian Orthodox Episcopate of America is seriously concerned with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington that invoking the name of God in public schools is unconstitutional.
"Subscribing fully to the principle of separation of church and state, the Congress, nevertheless, cannot accept the idea of the separation of our country in its public life from God.
“A nation ‘under God' cannot be prohibited to express this fundamental principle just because an individual or a small minority who do not believe in God will be offended.”
3. United Church of Christ, Council for Christian Social Action, Nashville, Tenn., July 10, 1962:
"STATEMENT ON THE SUPREME COURT DECISION INVOLVING THE NEW YORK REGENTS'
PRAYER (ENGEL V. V'ITALE)” “The Council for Christian Social Action of the United Church of Christ declares its support of the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision in Engel v. Vitale for the following reasons :
"1. The decision upholds the principle of church-state separation. The CCSA believes that because the New York State regents' prayer was created, adopted, and administered by State officials and used as a religious exercise in the public schools, it violated the establishment clause of the first amendment of the Federal Constitution. The fact that the prayer was nondenominational and its recitation voluntary does not alter the fact that the State prescribed a particular form of prayer to be used as an official prayer in a program of governmentally sponsored religious activity. Thus the State was carrying out a function which is not its business to perform.
*2. We believe that the responsiblity for religious education and worship belongs to the church and home where it can be most effectively performed. Significant prayer is an expression of deep religious faith and conviction which cannot in a public school setting appropriately be expressed corporately where there is a wide variety of belief and unbelief.
"3. There is nothing in the decision which bans private prayer. Nor is there anything in the decision which restricts teaching about the contributions religious leaders, movements, and ideas have made in the shaping of our history and culture and we would encourage the public school to do this more effectively.
“The CCSA calls upon the members of our churches to support the Supreme Court decision. It urges those concerned about the spiritual development of children to use and improve the opportunities for religious training in the church and the home and not look to other agencies to do the job.”
B. OTHER STATEMENTS ADOPTED PRIOR TO THE DECISION 1. American Baptist Convention, Philadelphia, Pa., 1962:
"RESOLUTION, CHURCH AND STATE “(a) Because of persistent efforts by sectarian groups to break down the separation of church and state, we reaffirm and urge continued study of the convention resolutions adopted in 1960 and 1961 entitled, 'Separation of Church and State,' which proclaim that the separation of church and state is central to our American heritage. * * *"
American Baptist Convention, Portland, Oreg., June 17, 1961:
“RESOLUTIONS, “2. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE'
“We proclaim that separation of church and state is central to our American heritage; that it has made possible a measure of freedom not previously achieved under any other system ; that it is indispensable to our national policy of equal rights for all religions and special privileges for no religion.
"They are separate in their function as well as in their support. Government being under public control is properly financed by taxation. Membership in