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lated for use in public schools, understanding that this decision places no restriction on the voluntary practice of prayer in connection with any public function or any semireligious activities in public schools. We recommend increased attention to the importance of prayer in deepening our spiritual lives and in challenging us in our social awareness.
(31. Resolution adopted by the Baptist General Convention of Oregon-Washington, in
annual session at Wenatchee, October 24–26, 1962]
Further, be it resolved that while viewing with concern the increasing secularization of our public school systems and the decreasing emphasis on moral and spiritual values, we also recognize that there are religious groups seeking to break down the wall between church and state; therefore we commend the Supreme Court of the Nation for its recent decision to ban from the school socalled official prayers; that we endeavor to increase the spiritual activities of our homes and our churches; and that we refuse as a group of cooperative churches to seek special monetary benefits from the local, State, or Federal Government and in any way would renounce any intention of advancing the work of the Lord at the expense of the public treasury. [ 32. Resolution adopted by the Norfolk Baptist Association, in annual session at Norfolk,
Va., October 26, 1962)
Whereas we hold fast to the concept of religion as a voluntary exercise of man in his voluntary response to his Maker; and
Whereas we have historically affirmed that the created dignity of man is lessened in any atmosphere of compulsion or coercion regarding his freedom to engage in, or refrain from engaging in, such voluntary response; and
Whereas we believe the role of government, insofar as its relationship to religious exercises is concerned, is to provide a permissive atmosphere, devoid of compulsion, coercion, or financial support, where in freemen may freely and personally exercise such voluntariness as they personnaly choose ;
We, therefore, as messengers to this meeting of the Norfolk Baptist Association, on October 26, 1962, do express our gratitude to the Supreme Court of these United States for their recent decision which reaffirmed the guarantee of religious freedom as embodied in the first amendment to the Constitution; and
Further, we reaffirm the historic position of Virginia Baptists as expressed by messengers to the 1925 meeting of the Dover Association; and
Further, we call upon our brethren to bolster and enhance these freedoms by giving greater diligence to the exercise of prayer and the study of the Holy Scriptures in the home and in the church, recognizing these as the true domains for the furtherance of the religious life of the individual.
[33. Recommendation of the Christian Life Commission, approved by the Baptist General
Convention of Texas, in annual session at Fort Worth, October 30-November 1, 1962)
SUPREME COURT DECISION ON OFFICIAL PRAYER
In the past prayers composed by the Government have been dismissed by Americans as an affront to conscience. But in the emotional context of the historic Supreme Court decision last June such a prayer drew considerable support. As a result, a major new church-state controversy was created. Although the specific issue was narrow, the ensuing debate has ranged far and wide.
The Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for an agency of the Government to coerce religious expression. It held that for a public school to require the reading of a prayer as part of the standard school procedure constitutes coercion, even when dissenting pupils are permitted to abstain from the reading. The decision was based on the fact that prayer composed of government officials and ordered by a government agency is contrary to the Constitution.
The Court did not outlaw prayer. It made prayer free from political control. It expressly stated that its action is not hostile toward religion or prayer, but rather is for the protection of religion and for the guarantee of its free exercise. If the Court is wrong, then must we not concede that government officials have the authority to compose prayers and enforce their repetition?
The Court's decision is in harmony with the fundamentals of democracy. It takes religion away from no man and forces it upon none. It declares again that under our form of government a man is free to worship as he sees fit, or not to worship at all. Citizenship is in no way dependent upon his affirmation of certain religious beliefs, or his refusal to make such an affirmation.
We urge Baptists to get the facts before they attempt to evaluate any court decision.
We urge Baptists to accept heartily the responsibility of religious worship and training of children. The answer to an ever-increasing secularism is not to use the compulsory attendance law to force the presence of children at religious worship but rather to call our churches and families to rededication to God.
We urge Baptists to support the principle of separation of church and state. This principle has been greatly strengthened by the Supreme Court's decision. The action of the Court is an act of liberation. It frees schoolchildren from what was, in effect, a forced repetition of prayer; prayer ought to be voluntary, not forced. It frees the public school from an observance much more likely to be divisive than unifying. And most important of all, it may free religion from an essentially perilous sort of secular support.
STATEMENT ON PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT RE RELIGION AND THE
PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN BEHALF OF THE CENTRAL CONFERENCE OF AMERICAN RABBIS
This statement is submitted in behalf of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, numbering 835 Reform Rabbis in the United States, the oldest and largest Rabbinical body in the country. Time and again through the years, we have reaffirmed our support of church-state separation as a principle which has enabled democracy in America to flourish, and permitted the free development of religion and its institutions. We see in the Supreme Court decision in the case of Engel v. Vitale a historic reaffirmation of the intent of the first amendment to the Constitution and its logical application to the realities of a pluralistic society. We, therefore, must record our opposition to any constitutional amendment or resolution which would in any way alter this intent or distort its application.
Our Founding Fathers, deeply religious men, believed in what Thomas Jefferson called “a wall of separation” between church and state. Indeed, as rector of the University of Virginia, a State-supported institution, Jefferson refused to permit Sunday religious services to be conducted on university property. Dr. Leonard W. Levy, dean of the graduate school of arts and sciences, and Earl Warner, professor of constitutional history at Brandeis University and fellow of Harvard University's Center for the Study of the History of Liberty, writes, "The early Presidents were deeply religious men, but they opposed any government aid, however beneficient and equitable, to religion. They reasoned that religion should remain a voluntary and private matter, the exclusive concern of the individual and his Creator. Any 'alliance or coalition between government and religion,' advised the aged Madison, 'cannot be too carefully guarded against.' He argued for a “perfect separation,' believing that ‘religion and government will exist in greater purity, without than with the aid of government.'”
The Supreme Court decision is in no wise a ruling against prayer. Indeed, it is based on profound insight into the true nature of prayer as communion between man and God, springing from the individual's personal faith and nurtured by a historic tradition. A religious ritual imposed by governmental authorities, and so denatured as to offend no one, becomes meaningless. As Mr. Justice Black pointed out in the majority decision, “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."
Public school sponsorship of religious exercises actually establishes a new religion which might be termed "civic religion," in which public officials assume the role of theologians, teachers become ministers, and the class a congregation. To regard such exercises as important is to do irreparable harm to the historic faiths which hold that empty formulas, recited by rote, can neither substitute for nor supplement the soul's aspiration to God and dedication to the performance of His will.
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 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 activities— in sum the entire life experience of a child-are responsible for the development of character.