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"SECTION 1. Prayers may be offered in the course of any program in any public school or other public place in the United States.
"SEC. 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.”
Mr. BECKER. I disagree with the conclusions of the Supreme Court, and sincerely believe that the Justices read meaning into the Constitution that is not expressed, and was never intended by the framers of this great and historical document.
The first amendment contains the words: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof.
These words are simple, and the Congress, through our history, has never breached this clause; nor has there ever been any attempt to do so.
However, your time is valuable and I can see no point in arguing the decision; nor will it serve any good purpose. Therefore, in my humble opinion, believing that no part of the Constitution bars prayer in our public schools, and to forestall any future suits, I pray the Congress will take immediate steps to amend the Constitution and clear the air once and for all. It is my opinion that this is the desire of the overwhelming majority of the American people and, if this is submitted to the various State legislatures, an amendment will be ratified.
It seems to be clearly intended by some to have long and continuous debate on this subject, to tire out the people in the hope that they will forget and drop the matter. I trust you will not permit this to happen.
Never in our history have we gone through such critical times. Never have we needed, more, the help of Almighty God, than we do today. This help can only be sought through prayer, just as our forefathers sought His help daily in the founding of our great country.
In view of the fact that our Constitution provides the means for amending the Constitution, consistent with the will of the people, I cannot see how there be any objection to submitting such an amendment to the State legislatures for their action.
I am trying to make this statement as brief as possible; however, I would like to read into the record, a sermon delivered by Rabbi Bernard Zlotowitz of the Union Reform Temple, Freeport, Long Island, N.Y., in my district. The sermon was given on April 20, 1962, and is directed to this subject. The arguments for both prayer and Bible reading in public schools are worth hearing.
I would like to quote to you the address by Rabbi Bernard Zlotowitz, who says:
The purpose of the Passover holiday is to make us conscious of the importance of freedom and the worth of the individual. Passover cautions us not to take for granted the privilege we enjoy as free men and women. The seder and its ceremonial symbols serve to remind us that the bread of affliction and the shackles of slavery must once and for all be destroyed, so that the dignity of the human being will be raised to a godly level, and all the peoples of this earth, regardless of their color, race, or creed will be truly recognized as children of God, created in His image.
It is, therefore, fitting and proper at this season of our joy and gladness when we commemorate the exodus from Egypt and our redemption from slavery to examine once again the religious ideals of our faith and the high principles of our country.
To be more specific, let us consider whether prayers and Bible reading in the public schools, or for that matter any religious celebration, is in keeping and in harmony with our religious tradition and American heritage or whether it is a violation of our Constitution and all that we hold dear and sacred.
Our religion has its roots in the belief in one God who taught us through His prophets and seers that freedom of the individual is paramount and is the ideal of mankind. God himself took us out of the land of Egypt-out of the house of bondage to make us a kindom of priests and a holy nation—where brotherhood would reign supreme and godliness reach unprecedented heights.
Similarly, our own Nation was founded “in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” And in order to put teeth into this preamble, the first amendment to the Constitution which the States ratified was the declaration that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof * * *
The Founding Fathers knew only too well the dangers inherent in an established church. The experiences of the countries of the European Continent were only too vivid in their minds.
They fully realized that the freedom of the individual could never be complete if there was an official church recognized by the state. This the Founding Fathers wanted to avoid at all costs. They wanted a separation of church and state; and this they achieved.
But by no stretch of the imagination did the founders of our country ever desire the separation of religion from government. The founders were a godly group of men and this was to be a godly country. Religion imbued them with a spirit of love and high ideals. The Bible inspired them.
The Liberty Bell bears the Biblical inscription : "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The Declaration of Independence refers to the Deity as the source of liberty. Listen to the words of this great document:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
From these significant examples we can readily recognize that the founders of this Nation were a godly people and not a godless people. That they wanted a godly nation and not a godless nation. They always sought divine help in all their deliberations just as the Houses of Congress do today. In fact, there are official chaplains in the Government, who bring spiritual aid and comfort to the representatives of the Government.
The President of the United States takes a Bible, places his hand on it, and raises his other hand to God and swears under an oath to God that he will uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Governors, mayors, judges, and all people who hold public office take an oath to God that they will fulfill the duties of their office to the best of their ability. A nonbeliever cannot hold a public office in our land. The wheels of justice would be at a standstill if witnesses were not sworn in.
The laws of perjury are based on swearing falsely. Our currency reads: "In God We Trust.” Even the Pledge of Allegiance has been modified to read : “This Nation under God."
All this is in keeping with the spirit of our Founding Fathers. For they realized, as we do, that God and religion cannot be divorced from life. It is as much a part of us as the air we breathe. It was Justice Warren who pointed out, when he spoke at the biennial convention of the Union of American Congregations in Washington last November, that we are a religious country by virtue of the fact that there is separation of church and state. Thus, in the opinion of the Chief Justice of the United States, our country is a religious nation because we do not recognize one church as the official church, but rather we recognize all houses of worship, be they Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, or any others.
We recognize the vital role that religion plays in making our life meaningful. Yet today in our community and in some other communities, a group has seen fit to challenge this concept of our American way of life and to undermine it. Today there is a movement afoot to attempt to suppress God in our schools, and to make the mention of God's name subversive in any public school.
In fact, the matter has gained such serious proportions that the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments on this issue early this month, and I understand that sometime in the fall it will render its decision on whether public schools are permitted to have Bible readings and prayers.
It now behooves us to ask: What is the function of the public school? The purpose of the public school is to teach our young to grow into useful and responsible citizens by preparing them properly for life. This can only be accomplished by having schools transmit our culture and our heritage which in this country is Judeo-Christian. We Jews live in a country where we are a minority-a very small minority at that. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of this Nation are of the Christian faith—and as such, exert a great influence over us. I need only point out, as I have on numerous occasions in the past, that we are unduly influenced by Christians not only in our schools, which is minute as compared to the influence generated through the mass media of advertising, TV, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, our business associations, and indeed our whole environment.
The emphasis on Christmas, for example, is so strong that we have tried to offset this in our homes by overemphasizing the importance of Hanukkah, and making of a minor holiday—one not mentioned in the Bible—a major festival. It seems today that we Jews observe three high holidays a year-Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah.
But to get back to my point—the objectives of the school system is to convey our culture to our offsprings for their well-being as well as for ours. Toward this end, the school gears its curriculum to teach English, citizenship, government, American history, European history, geography, mathematics, sciences, and many other courses which are basic to living a good life in this country. And along with these courses of instruction, the school, in keeping with its desire to reflect the needs of the community, observe what we term “religious practices.”
The schools close down during Christmas and Easter because these are religious holidays to the majority in our community. The schools are closed on Saturdays and Sundays because these are religious days. The schools plan no functions on Sunday because it is a religious day. In some parts of this State these schools close on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because they are holy days.
In reflecting the needs of the community, and in perpetuating its heritage, the school celebrates holidays as does the community. In doing so, it attempts to explain, as it should, what the community is doing, and what its citizens believe. Our children, as part of the total community, should understand the community in which they grow up, and where they will eventually earn a livelihood, marry, rear their own children, and make their contribution to community life. The school, if it is to fulfill its obligation, should explain the beliefs of its citizens, be they Christian, Jewish, Moslem, or any other faith. The Jewish child should know about Christmas and Easter as the Christian child should know about Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover. Each child should know and understand the other's religious observances. This makes for better relations in the community. This is the school's moral obligation. This is its civic duty. This is its responsibility. The community of which we are a part is a religious community. Nearly everyone believes in God. Nearly everyone worships God. And in keeping with its principle and ideals and goals, to mirror the needs and desires of the community, the school is fulfilling its duty in transmitting our culture and beliefs by having a prayer at the opening of the schoolday, and/or reading a passage from the Bible, because, as a community, we believe in prayer and in the Bible.
In New York State, the following prayer is offered in the public schools:
Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.
Now what is wrong with this prayer? Yet some see great danger to our American way of life if the recitation of this prayer is permitted to continue. In fact, they have gone so far as to take this issue into the courts, and, thank God, the New York courts have sustained this prayer. It is now before the Supreme Court, where arguments, as I noted earlier, have already been heard, and a decision is to be rendered as to its constitutionality.
I wonder why these groups don't object to the teaching of the Golden Rule, and ethics and morals. After all, these are also religious teachings having their roots in the Bible.
I think the school would be derelict in its duty if it did not transmit our cultural in its entirety. For this is its function and responsibility. I admit that there are abuses connected with religious practices in the schools, and they do at times seem to be sectarian in character rather than nondenominational. But the solution does not lie in eliminating these prayers or Bible reading or holiday celebrations, but rather in correcting these abuses. One does not tear down a house if the roof leaks. He merely repairs the roof. Let us do the same. Let us repair the damage where necessary, but, in doing so, let us not destroy the structure. Let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. And let us pray, that in the teachings of this holiday of Passover, we may yet find the truth that will guide us to a solution that will benefit ourselves, our community, and our country. Amen.
Gentlemen, to prove what is intended by those who support the Supreme Court decision in the New York case, I call your attention to an article that appeared in the newspapers this past week:
"THANK THEE, God”-ACLU SEEKS To HIT KID SONG IN CALIFORNIA
SAN FRANCISCO.—The American Civil Liberties Union here is seeking a client to challenge, in court, the song that public school kindergarten and first-grade pupils sing before their milk and crackers.
The song is “We Thank Thee, God, for the food we eat; for family and friends we meet; for books we read and songs we sing; we thank Thee, God, for everything."
Ernest Besig, executive director of the ACLU in northern California, said the song is a “subterfuge” to get mention of God into public schools.
“We are prepared to challenge it in court, if we can get a client who wants to," he said.
Besig's comment came in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional for the New York State Board of Regents to write a prayer for voluntary recitation by public school pupils.
It is evident from this that the American Civil Liberties Union and others are determined to bar God from our public schools.
In conclusion, it is my sincere hope and prayer that, when your hearings are over, you will recommend and report a resolution that will amend the Constitution to carry out what I believe to be the will and desire of the great majority of the American people. I certainly am not wedded to House Joint Resolution 752, my own amendment; any simple amendment to carry out this purpose would do.
I appreciate your giving me this opportunity to be heard on a matter that I believe is of greater importance than anything that will come before the Congress.
I feel there is little use in arguing the conclusion to which they arrive at, but I do believe that this Congress should act at the earliest possible moment to write a provision into the Constitution that will carry out what I believe to be the overwhelming and great will of the American people, giving them the right to have their children gather together each day and recite a prayer to a Supreme Being because at no time in our history do we need it more than we do now.
Senator Hart. Thank you, Mr. Becker. It was very evident that you thought long about this, and feel very deeply.
I am sure that will be reflected in the printed page also.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN DOWDY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CON
GRESS FROM THE SEVENTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Dowdy. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would first compliment this honorable committee for its promptness in undertaking the correction of a judicial miscarriage, and to thank you for permitting me to appear, in behalf of the proposed constitutional amendment, to rectify this matter.
We are all familiar with the first amendment to the Constitution, but I am stiil at a loss for words to adequately express my concern over the opinion of the Supreme Court, which stated that the voluntary recitation of a simple prayer in a public school constitutes the establish