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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
SCHOOLS 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
HART you thought long about this, and feel very deeply. I am sure that
will be reflected in the printed page also. Again my apology for this delay. Our next witness will be Congressman John Dowdy, of Texas.
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 still 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
ment of a religion, and is, therefore, unconstitutional. I feel that the Court "stepped off limits" in deviating from what many of us believe is its intent and its purpose.
The prayers that were offered in the public school were voluntary. No one was compelled to participate. They were nondenominational. They recognized the existence of God and recognized God as a Supreme Being and asked His blessing. Nothing else was involved.
This is not the first onslaught on our religious freedom and it will not be the last unless we put some safeguards in our Constitution so strong that it will be impossible for the present and future courts to stretch its meaning to a point of personal interpretation and beyond its true purpose.
In the early 1870's two organizations were founded, the Liberal League and the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism. They were founded to accomplish what the Supreme Court, knowingly or unknowingly, is well on the way toward accomplishing today. Some of the objectives of these societies were:
(1) That churches and other ecclesiastic property shall no longer be exempted from taxation.
(2) The employment of chaplains in Congress, in State legislatures, in the Navy and militia, and in prisons and all other institutions supported by public money be discontinued.
(3) All religious services sustained by the Government shall be abolished, and especially the use of the Bible in public schools, whether used as a textbook or as a book of religious worship, shall be prohibited.
(4) The judicial oath in the courts and all other departments of Government shall be abolished.
(5) The laws directly or indirectly enforcing the observance of Sunday as a Sabbath shall be repealed. There were other objectives but these are the basic ones. Our forefathers were able to handle the situation then, and I pray we will be able to handle it now. So far, however, the pattern is the same.
Already the Court has virtually outlawed Sunday as a day of worship, in a case involving the State of Maryland. It based its decision not on the principles of religion and morality, but on social and economic principles.
It has outlawed a reference to God in the official oath, also in the State of Maryland.
In a Maryland case, pending for a fall decision, the freedom to use the Bible in the public schools is in jeopardy.
Yes, gentlemen, the pattern is definitely the same. It is shocking and it is frightening.
An interrogating Russian officer told a captured American officer in Korea, “My country will never meet your country on the battlefield. It would be disastrous to both of us.
“In our lifetime my country will overcome your country by bleeding you white economically and destroying you morally."
I ask you, gentlemen, are we going to sit here and let that happen? I have a brief here going into more detail on this subject.
This brief was prepared by Hon. J. S. Bracewell, of Houston and Roans Prairie, Tex. He entitles it “A Little Prayer That Stirred a Nation.” I believe you will find it of interest.
Senator Hart. It will be placed in the record at this point.
(The brief follows:)
A LITTLE PRAYER THAT STIRRED A NATION
“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”
This little prayer the U.S. Supreme Court says is unconstitutional. This opinion by the Supreme Court is causing as much controversy as its desegregation decision in Brown v. Maryland. The Brown case will be used to root out every form of segregation in any tax-supported institution in the United States. That is as it should be, although it came about by a quite strained interpretation of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court says to segregate the races in any tax-supported institution constitutes a denial of the equal protection of the laws. The New York Prayer case is based upon exactly the same principle of reasoning. That is to say, that if any State uses any of its tax revenues in any form to foster, recognize or encourage any religion, such will deny to all other citizens, whether religious or not, the equal protection of the laws and the interpretation will in the end be used to root out every reference to or recognition of religion, not only in our public schools, but in every other tax-supported institution in the country. In some States already the teacher have been forbidden to read the Bible or have any character of Christmas or Easter recognition in the schools. It will follow that the schools will be forbidden to make any recognition whatsoever of any religious event.
It seems that to be logical we will have to abandon “A.D.” appearing on most of our legal documents for the simple reason that this recognizes that it is done "in the year of our Lord.”
The Liberal League was established in 1873. There was also organized in 1876 the American Secular Union and Free Thought Federation, the president of which was Robert V. Ingersoll, one of the most noted atheists of all time. There was another organization about the same time entitled “The Four A's” the same being the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism. These adopted with little change the same principles. There were nine demands in Ingersoll's organization which we think it appropriate to call attention to.
"1. We demand that churches and other ecclesiastic property shall no longer be exempted from just taxation.
“2. We demand that the employment of chaplains in Congress, in State legislatures, in the Navy and militia, and in prisons, asylums and all other institutions supported by public money shall be discontinued.
“3. We demand that all public appropriations for sectarian, educational and charitable institutions shall cease.
“4. We demand that all religious services now sustained by the Government shall be abolished; and especially the use of the Bible in the public schools, whether ostensibly as a textbook, or avowedly as a book of religious worship, shall be prohibited.
“5. We demand that the appointment by the President of the United States or the Governors of the various States, of all religious festivals and feasts shall wholly cease.
“6. We demand that the judicial oath in the courts and in all other departments of the Government, shall be abolished, and that simple affirmation under pains and penalties of perjury shall be established in its stead.
“7. We demand that all laws directly or indirectly, enforcing the observance of Sunday as a Sabbath shall be repealed.
“8. We demand that all laws looking to the enforcement of Christian morality shall be abrogated, and that all laws shall be conformed to the requirement of natural morality, equal rights, and impartial liberty.
"9. We demand that not only in the Constitution of the United States and of the several States, but also in the practical administration of the same, no privilege or advantage shall be conceded to Christianity or any other special religions; that our entire political system shall be founded and administered on a purely secular basis; and that whatever changes shall prove necessary to this end shall be consistently, unflinchingly, and promptly made.” (Stokes "Church and State," vol. III, p. 593).
It would seem that a majority of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Hugo Black, is traveling in the direction of all of these very principles promulgated by Ingersoll and his associates over 80 years ago. The Court virtually outlawed Sunday as a national day of worship in its recent decision upholding the Sunday