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STATEMENT ON PUBLIC PRAYER IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS The Supreme Court on June 25, 1962, handed down an important decision forbidding the use in the public schools of a prayer written by the New York State Board of Regents. The majority opinion, written by Justice Hugo L. Black, stated: “It is neither sacrilegious nor antireligious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves and to those the people choose to look to for religious guidance."
We want publicly to endorse and support this decision of the Supreme Court. Although we might not agree precisely at every point in our reasons for opposing the use of public worship as a part of the public school's curriculum or practice, we nevertheless set forth the following 10 reasons for believing the Supreme Court decision is worthy of support by the American people, including those who hold religious convictions and those who do not:
(1) Prayer used in the public schools is bound to be offensive to some individuals and groups in our pluralistic society. These include not only persons whose approach to prayer is from a unique religious or denominational background, but also atheists, agnostics, and those who for other reasons are of the belief that prayer in the public schools constitutes a violation of the separation of church and state.
(2) The responsibility, both for religious education and worship, rests in the home, the church, and the synagogue. The delegation of this responsibility to the public school, an agency of the state, is but an invitation to promulgate a vague, watered-down, so-called nonsectarian religion, a non-Biblical, artificial faith that must, in the long run, constitute a grave disservice to religion.
(3) If prayer is reduced to a lowest-common-denominator approach in order to be inoffensive to different religious groups, by the same token it becomes theologically inadequate. Prayer thus is secularized through public policy so that public schools may have the appearance of being religious.
(4) This lowest-common-denominator approach to religion not only tends to establish as a new state-sponsored religion the residuum of religious belief acceptable to all faiths, but it relegates the minority of the religiously unaffiliated to a second-class citizenship. The Bill of Rights in the Constitution is intended to preclude such state invasion of the religious sphere as well as to safeguard the rights of minorities.
(5) If the State or public servants can constitutionally compose, require, or permit use of a prayer that is allegedly inoffensive to religious groups, what is to prevent government officials from using prayers that are patently offensive to some part of the population ?
(6) Governments are by nature instruments of restraint and coercion to enforce justice and to promote the general welfare. The worship of God is by nature a voluntary expression and ought not to be associated with the coercive functions of the state. Governments should guarantee freedom of private and public exercise of religious conviction as well as freedom for the expression of objection to any or all religious doctrines. But governments must not be permitted to determine what is orthodox or heretical and hence must leave to the home and the church the ritualistic or doctrinal expressions of religious faith.
(7) When persons, in a captive audience, who do not approve of prayer or a particular prayer or the context in which the prayer is said, are involved in religious worship as a part of government policy, some are alienated from genuine religious expression and commitment. Others may become antagonistic to institutional religion and even intolerant, because of its readiness to rely on government coercion of children for external religious expression. In such cases a program designed to foster religious commitment may be responsible for retarding it and may even injure the religious freedom which we in this country so highly prize.
(8) It is important to have religious communities that are distinguishable from the political community. Too often the actions of Spain, Israel, or England have been identified with a dominant religious group in those countries. The danger is not only that religious groups will be identified with the mistakes and injustices of political units, but that prayer to a god of all nations may be used to hollow narrow nationalism. This merging of the religious expression with cultural and even governmental activity may mute the prophetic religious criticism that so genuinely serves the best interests of the state.
(9) Schoolchildren who object or whose parents object to their participation in religious practices in the public schools may hesitate to declare themselves
as nonreligious or as members of a minority religious group. Pressure upon children in such circumstances is an invasion of the privacy of belief that so many consider essential to genuine liberty.
(10) Teachers ought not to be expected to perform public religious functions in public schools even if they should be qualified to do so. There is danger of overzealous religious activity as well as of prayer so perfunctory as to be a mockery of religion. Under some circumstances, teachers who are identified with a particular religious expression may even become for their students objects of ridicule or hostility.
James E. Amick, C.L.U.
Methodist, Kansas City, Mo.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Shrum Burton, pastor, Country Club Methodist Church. Ramon C. Butts, pastor, Methodist churches in Camden and Orrick, Mo. Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Chick. Carolyn Benton Cockefair. Clayton M. Crosier, professional engineer. Mrs. A. Henry Cuneo, C.P.A. E. Dale Dunlap, associate professor of theology, St. Paul School of Theology
Methodist. C. L. Duxbury, pastor, Antioch Community Church. John D. Fischer, pastor, First Congregational Church. William A. Greenbaum II, rabbi, Temple Beth El. Morton Goldman. Ruth Anne Hatcher, teaching dietitian, St. Luke's Hospital. T. Ben Hatcher, physicist, University of Kansas Medical Center. Francis H. Hayward, pastor, Southminster Presbyterian Church, Prairie Village. J. R. Hodges, professor of economics. Harold L. Holliday, attorney. Berndt L. Kolker. Charles A. McEowen, executive secretary, Missouri West Conference, the Meth
odist Church. Morris B. Margolies, rabbi, Beth Shalom Congregation. J. L. Mitchell, pastor, St. Matthew and St. Mark's Methodist Churches, Inde
pendence, Mo. Filbert Munoz, attorney. G. E. Olmsted, pastor, Countryside Christian Church, Mission, Kans. Robert B. Olsen, attorney, Prairie Village. Alvin C. Porteous, professor, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Mark A. Rouch, pastor, First Methodist Church, Baldwin, Kans. Ben Morris Ridpath, pastor, Trinity Methodist Church. Norman N. Royall, Jr. Mrs. A. Harold Schmidt, past president and member at large, United Church
Women of Greater Kansas City, Mo.
Paul School of Theology Methodist.
(Organizations are listed for purposes of identification only.)
FLINT JEWISH COMMUNITY COUNCIL,
Flint, Mich., August 16, 1962. Hon. Estes KEFAUVER, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SENATOR KEFAUVER: We are writing with reference to the hearings now being conducted before the Judiciary Committee, which is considering proposals for amendment to the Constitution in view of the Supreme Court decision on the regents school prayer in New York.
We are opposed to any amendment which would tamper with the guarantees set forth in the Bill of Rights. Freedom of religion is a keystone of the American way of life. Any change in the Bill of Rights would only weaken this important safeguard. We commend the Supreme Court for their decision, which is in the best interests of all Americans.
We respectfully request that this expression of our opposition to a constitutional amendment be incorporated in the record of the hearings. Respectfully,
IRVING L. GEISSER,
IN RE STATEMENT TO THE U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, JAMES 0.
EASTLAND, CHAIRMAN, ON PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS AND CONCURRENT RESOLUTIONS REGARDING PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND WITH REFERENCE TO CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, APPERTAINING TO MATTERS OF PRAYER, IN PARTICULAR ARTICLE I, AMENDMENTS TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
(By Raymond R. Start, Esq., Upper Darby, Pa.) Gentlemen, the average citizens in States of the Union must, by inherent moral and religious training, feel frustrated and abandoned by the immediate and objective aspects of the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, banning the use of a prayer suggested by the board of regents, a State agency, a nonsectarian prayer, for use in the schools of that State. The prayer was simple, all encompassing in its reference to one God, and is quoted as follows:
"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.".
Legalistic arguments, no matter how astutely arrived and concocted, will to eternity conflict with positive and carefully nurtured conscience of the people. We have all witnessed the battle between conscience and law, and I have yet to know of a positive change in conscience, which having been well and properly established, in the face of legal pressures. We do, indeed, live by our conscience and, truly speaking, “our conscience is our foundation and lighted lamp to show the way."
But, to understand the basis of religious and truly godly approach in public institutions, one must know that the impetus which brought the embryo to fruition in the New World colonies was the reliance upon the divine power of God, to guide all peoples in a direction of freedom, security, and peace among men. The great majority of immigrants to the colonies in the pre Revolutionary provinces in this country were those who wished to rely upon these godly premises, and the beneficience granted in their use, occupancy, and opportunities for growth in the human sense, to a time immemorial. History records that the treacherous route across almost uncharted oceans to these shores by the early Pilgrims was marked by constant reliance in prayer upon the one divine power, the one God. When those Pilgrim Fathers landed in the year 1620, the Pilgrim Rock was devised a sanctuary while the Pilgrims bowed and thanked Almighty God for their deliverance to the New World. Thus was initiated the fundamental and everlasting basis for progress in life in these United States of America.
The mosaic pattern which grew into being in this country soon found need for its strength and continued growth in freedom, in the unity of the provinces and their people, under God, and a United States of America. At no time, in the tremendous and personal sacrifices of the patriots who brought forth the groundwork and consequent being of the United States of America, was there considered any possible chance of success without the reliance upon God and His omnipotent power. All recognized one God, and from the beginning of time in our pre-Revolutionary colonies, the Almighty God was asked to aid the patriotic and religious fervor under Him, which was deemed a basic combination of human endeavor to give freedom of religion and personal rights to all.
My study and reverent contemplation of the colonial atmosphere existing among the colonists reveals to me that it was not considered State control (or governmenal control in the sense of control in the mother country) to exercise he call for divine providence to help all concerned. Herein was found, and established, a religious unity, with no abridgment of personal concepts of religion, which primarily brought to immortal success, this United States of America.
Thus the conscience of our people was established, and it became inherein, over the centuries, to the progeny which followed in the development of the free United States of America, under our Constitution.
Now, to try and impress upon that established American conscience that a public prayer, in a public school, is unconstitutional, is a devious, malignant. and invidious approach to the further reliance upon divine power of God to give strength to the continuity of our United States of America. No amount of legal maneuvering, and decisions by our courts, will succeed in brainwashing the conscience of the majority of our people, and make it stick. History pronounces this well-known truth.
We all revere the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall; and the conscience of our people in the United States of America is enshrined in the mortal existence of that bell, and under the tender care of the Government of the United States of America to eternity. Be it known, that the originator of that Liberty Bell is historically recorded as being Isaac Morris, speaker in the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania, in 1751. By the suggestion of Isaac Morris, and unanimously agreed upon by the representatives of the people in the colony, the Liberty Bell, as brought forth for everlasting meaning of freedom, under God, was inscribed with a passage from the Bible, Leviticus XXV-10, with these biblical words: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”.
Surely this inclusion, forevermore inscribed in the hearts and minds of the world, rendered unto our own citizens of the United States of America without protest from individuals, or groups minority or majority, of any religious order, must be evidence of public reliance upon the Bible, and the one God. Herein, marking the reverence of our country to the world forevermore, was proof positive of a belief binding the spiritual nature of man to a supernatural being, and involving a feeling of dependence and responsibility, together with the feelings and practices which naturally flow from such a belief. The true nature of our country, springing from the great embryo, is reliance upon one Supreme Being, self-existent and eternal; the Infinite Maker, Sustainer, and Ruler of the Universe. These marks of our total existence were a reaffirmation of the quoted words of William Penn: "Men must either be governed by God or ruled by tyrants."
And there followed the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin: “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principle of Christianity, will secure the blessings of God to our Nation."
In the month of May 1776, the Continental Congress, in its bitter struggle to renounce every kind of authority under the British Crown, at a conference of committees held at Carpenter's Hall, June 18, 1776, resolved that it "was necessary to call a Provincial Convention to form a new government in the authority of the people only, and the following religious test was proposed to the members thereof."
“I * * * do profess in God the Father, and to Jesus Christ His Eternal Son, the true God, and in the Holy Spirit, One God blessed evermore, and do acknowledge the sacred scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration." (Adopted by the Constitution.)
The above is to be found in Pennsylvania Archives, volume III, Sec. Series, VA. 3, Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pa.
Thus, again, we see the fundamental reliance by the earliest architects of this country, upon the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and one Blessed God. It seems reasonable that we can believe the Constitution of the United States did not predicate article I, amendment to the Constitution, upon a forbearance by the public officials, or public-supported institutions, of an admission by all the inhabitants of our land, of one Almighty God, such as set forth in the regents' prayer in New York.
Every nominee for the Presidency of the United States, to my own recollection, has called upon God to aid and guide him in his destined path of leadership of the United States.
All the courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, has opened its proceeding in the name of God.
Our money is inscribed “In God we trust.”
Our oath of allegiance to the United States of America includes the words, "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Prayer is recognized as an integral part of the traditional training of cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy, and is urged and practiced by regulation at the Academy, at all times. The oath on admission to the Naval Academy by the midshipmen, members of the civilian faculty, as well as the oath taken by a commissioned officer upon acceptance of office, states in these words:
"I * * * having been appointed a midshipman in the U.S. Navy, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.”
Likewise, the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., are required to attend religious services at the Academy. The oath of allegiance, administered to cadets on the day they enter the Military Academy and the oath of office, administered to the first class (senior) cadets on the day that they are graduated and commissioned, states as follows:
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE "I * * * do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the National Government; that I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States paramount to any and all allegiance, Sovereignty, or fealty I may owe to any State, county, or country whatsoever; and that I will at all times obey the legal orders of my superior officers and the rules and articles governing the armies of the United States.'
OATH OF OFFICE "I * * * having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above, in the grade of ----------, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, so help me God.”
Without a doubt, the Government of the United States of America has seen fit to accept the dominion of one God over its trusted servants, in its requirements as contained in the above two oaths at its service academies, ending the oaths with the all-important words of heavenly askance, “so help me God.”.
It is reasonable to state that most all public proceedings are buttressed by reliance by a prayer and a call for divine guidance. These principles of public reliance upon religious strength, obtained from the word of God in the Bible, have always been enunciated with, and from, the inner conscience of the people everywhere, and unequivocably.
I must refer, as a matter of personal experience and knowledge, to Girard College, an orphan college established by a great American, Stephen Girard. I was the fortunate receipient of the benevolence of this patriotic citizen, and in that great institution for orphans there are nurtured boys from the ages of 7 to 18 years, who grow into young manhood with a constant background of reliance upon God and His word in the Bible. Every day, during approximately 10 years' time, and sometimes twice a day, religious services are held in the chapel of the college. And it is remarkable to note that the boys comprising the student body of over 1,000 comprise every religious creed. The young boys are indelibly impressed with the fact of God, one God, and the dominion of God for all. It is true that no clergyman, identified as such, is accepted in the college by the will of Stephen Girard, but the fact is that Stephen Girard believed it proper not to subject the tender minds of the boys with a particular creed but to give the boys understanding,