« ÎnapoiContinuă »
the secularists and restore a proper balance between that clause and the freeexercise-of-religion clause of the first amendment. One way to accomplish this would be to restate the first amendment so that the religious protection clauses would read :
"Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a state religion or, in encouraging religion, the preferment of any religion or denomination, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion ; * * *."
An amendment such as this would, in my opinion, strike at the heart of the doctrinaire and fallacious concept that there should be an absolute separation between church and state. Such conceptual absolutionism is impractical and unrealistic and if permitted to become imbedded in the first amendment could lead in the future only to other decisions that would be offensive to the religious traditions of the American people and potentially destructive to American institutions.
That concludes my statement. On behalf of His Eminence Cardinal Spellman, I thank this committee for the opportunity to present these views.
STATEMENT OF JOHN P. ZEBLEY, DIRECTOR, DELAWARE DEFENDERS OF THE
REPUBLIC, INC. Mr. Chairman, I am grateful for this opportunity to respectfully submit this written statement concerning proposed resolutions and concurrent resolutions regarding prayer in public schools. I appreciate this being included in the hearing report.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
This Bible text adequately states the present threat to our national existence and the freedoms we cherish.
As a member of an organization cognizant of current events, the majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in Engel v. Vitale, decided June 25, 1962, came as no surprise. It is strictly in accord with the current pattern to undermine our traditions and sacred institutions. An affinity for radical philosophy, the usurpation of the legislative functions, the reversal or rejection of established opinions of previous Courts, that have attained custom and usage, clearly indicate that the present Court has lost a sense of responsibility and the obligation to consider the intent as well as the letter of the law.
I find it difficult to try to explain to my children the fact that a nation which has acknowledged and pledged its very existence to God, could produce a judicial body that would decide it unconstitutional for children to publicly and simply declare their belief in God and request divine guidance. I concur with the statements of Cardinal Spellman, “The decision strikes me at the very heart of the Godly tradition in which America's children have for so long been raised."
Since the decision was announced there have been considerable discussions of its meaning and implications. The majority explanation, “It is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of American people to recite,” if that were the extent of the ruling it would be acceptable without question. However, a wider significance is indicated both in Justice Douglas' concurring opinion and in Justice Stewart's dissenting opinion. The possibility exists of an end to all official recognition by the Federal and State Governments of all religious dimensions in national life on the grounds of an "establishment of religion.”
Recent results, confusion, and developments in the State of New York confirm the worst fears of these implications.
In August a resolution adopted by the Hicksville (Long Island) School Board, designating part of the national anthem as an official school prayer was overruled by Dr. James E. Allen, commissioner of education, as a violation of the Supreme Court decision. He ruled that periods of silent prayer were not in violation, but stated there were “valid reservations to the educational value of a practice in which the teacher cannot have a positive and direct role." Even this ruling, to begin each schoolday with silent prayer, anticipates a challenge.
In September, Dr. Charles A. Brind, counsel to the New York State Educational Department, declared that no prayer of any kind could be recited aloud in New York schools. He also declared that Bible reading, when intended for spiritual and not objective instructional purposes, violates the Supreme Court ruling.
The reason for this startling conclusion is that if a teacher permitted a pupil to recite a prayer, even a spontaneous one, it would become an official prayer since the teacher was an agent of the state.
This puts into bold focus the direction we are heading.
In October the Supreme Court agreed to pass on the constitutionality of reciting the Lord's Prayer and reading from the Bible in public schools, the issue being presented in appeals from Maryland and Pennsylvania cases.
We are, therefore, reaching a crisis. The anti-God forces mean business, and it is now time for Christians to fight back.
The separation of church and state is not the issue. It is the dislike of organized religion, and especially the Christian Church and an attempt to remove God from all phases of our national life. Secularism and aggressive atheism command huge areas of the world with explicit intentions of the domination of all humanity.
An establishment of religion is being accomplished. No leader in the Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish faith ever insisted his creed be imposed on the whole people, but the secularists and atheists are having their way. They want no recognition of God. They do not want the help of God asked or believe God should be thanked for his blessing.
Destroy the recognition of God among our people and you destroy a respect for the very basis upon which our freedoms are founded as stated so clearly in the Declaration of Independence. Our greatest resource is our national faith in God and the application of His will to our affairs, both public and private.
We must, therefore, provide for a clarification of our national tradition. If the Constitution (even through misinterpretation) is made to say things the majority of the people believe it does not, or should not say, then it must be clarified by amendment. This amendment must be carefully composed. It must preserve the principle of separation of church and state that were important to our Founding Fathers and are important to us. But it must provide protection against the tyranny of a minority that would impose upon the people a concept that would ignore God. The Right Reverend James A. Pike, bishop of the Episcopal diocese of California, ably covered the “establishment clause" which should be included. Also, I respectfully suggest wording similar to this nature be adopted :
"Nothing in the Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the voluntary expression of belief in the existence and providence of God, or the voluntary saying of prayers addressed to God, or the invocation of His name and blessing, or the reading of the Bible in any and every location and place, including public schools, where citizens of the United States may gather, if participation therein is not made compulsory.”
STATEMENT ON PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS BY HERSCHEL H. HOBBS, PASTOR, FIRST
BAPTIST CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA., AND PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
It is with gratitude that I am permitted the privilege of appearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. I do not appear officially for the First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Okla., nor for the Southern Baptist Convention. Neither has taken any official action on this matter. My appearance is that of one Baptist in an effort to express what I believe to be the position which has traditionally been held by Baptists on this very vital matter which is of concern to every citizen of the United States.
Following the recent decision of the Supreme Court relating to prayer in the public schools much misunderstanding and concern have prevailed throughout the Nation. It is regrettable that so important a decision should have become the cause of such as a result of this situation many earnest people have sought a safeguard for our time-honored principle of the separation of church and state. The immediate occasion stems from proposed amendments to the Constitution designed to clarify the issue.
It is my sincere judgment that such an amendment is unnecessary. This does not mean that I am opposed to prayer in public schools as to any other religious exercise which does not involve the establishment of one religious faith over others. It is my conviction that the first amendment as it now stands is a sufficient safeguard both to the state and to the church. My position may be outlined in the following affirmations :
First, the first amendment has stood the test of time. For approximately 175 years it has served as a safeguard against the encroachment of either the church or the state into the realm of the other. There is no reason at this time to suppose that it will not continue to do so.
Second, the recent Supreme Court ruling does not forbid prayer in the public schools. It does rule that it is unlawful for any government agency to compose a prayer and require that it be used in public schools.
My first acquaintance with this decision was a newspaper headline “Supreme Court Outlaws Prayer in Public Schools.” This greatly disturbed me. But when later I read an analysis of the decision it was quite clear that what appeared, at first glance, to be a blow at religious freedom was in reality a blow in its favor. I then declared it to be the greatest single decision for the separation of church and state since the adoption of the first amendment.
In so ruling the Court said, “We think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that in his country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a religious program carried on by the government.” According to the Court an officially composed prayer by government constitutes an "establishment” of religion. This is expressly forbidden by the first amendment.
The Court was careful to point out that its action is not hostility toward religion or prayer. The decision pointed out that it is for the protection of religion and to guarantee its free exercise that the Court arrived at its conclusion. Said the Court, “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."
The Supreme Court cited specific history, such as the Book of Common Prayer, to indicate that prayers officially composed or sanctioned lead to malfunctions in both the state and religion. It pointed out that such a history was the occasion for the first amendment being included in the Constitution. “Our founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs."
It is to strain the meaning of the first amendment beyond reasonable measure to say that the Court's ruling would forbid teachers to lead their pupils in prayer. This does not comprise a government agent or agency composing a prayer. It is the expression of one soul to God as he or she leads others to a like expression. The language of the Court's decision clearly implies that a prayer by a teacher, pupil, or minister is a "purely religious function" of "the people themselves" and/or of “those the people choose to look to for religious guidance.”
Third, any amendment as proposed to the Constitution invites disaster in the area of the separation of church and state. Such an amendment or any change in the first amendment itself would tend to modify this principle. If an amendment today can state what the first amendment does not mean, there is no end to what future amendments can say that the first amendment does not mean. The result could well be to say in effect that it means nothing at all.
To change the first amendment to read that it prohibits "the recognition of an established church of any denomination, sect, or organized religious association" would make it mean that and nothing more. The Supreme Court, then, with justification could rule that the first amendment only forbade the establishing of a state church, but that it did not forbid the use of Federal funds for parochial schools, church-sponsored hospitals, or any other religious function short of recognizing one religious body over all others. Most religious groups would most likely refuse such funds while a few would welcome them. This would tend to put the Federal, State, and local governments in the position of favoring some religious groups to the disadvantage of others. The result would be an unofficial “established" church or churches.
The Hill-Burton Act which provides Federal grants to church-related hospitals is a case in point. The fact that this act has been amended to provide for loans to those religious groups which will not accept grants is but an accommodation. It still means that in effect favoritism is shown to certain groups to the detriment of others. To change the first amendment would tend to open the floodgates where now we have but a trickle.
Fourth, the proposed amendments are based upon a presupposition as to future decisions which may be rendered by the Supreme Court. Can we reasonably hold that this is a safe basis upon which to amend the Constitution? If so, is it not possible that, following such a procedure, we shall reduce the entire Constitution to a mere scrap of paper?
Furthermore, to foresee the day when any reference to deity shall be removed from our national life is to go far afield with regard to the recent ruling of the Supreme Court. Justice Clark is reported in the news media as taking the unusual step of commenting on the Court's ruling to emphasize that it does not forbid prayer in public schools. Are we then justified, at this time, to read into this decision the shadows of foreboding events which have not come nor are necessarily implied in the present status of things? We would be wise to accept the ruling at its word, and consider only that which has happened, not that which our aroused imaginations tell us may happen.
Fifth, such proposed amendments would change the very nature of the first amendment. In its present form it is essentially negative. It is a limitation of power. These various amendments would be positive, a grant of power to the Federal Government. They would, in effect, confer a religious function on the public schools through the Constitution. This would constitute a shift of power and disturb the present constitutional balance, and would be extremely dangerous. Those who oppose the separation of church and state could well contend that the essential separation of church and state had been destroyed. That is not the intention of any of those offering amendments. But the best of intentions could ultimately lead to disaster.
Sixth, the proposed amendments deny the very nature of prayer itself. Prayer in its essence is personal communion between the infinite Spirit of God and the finite spirits of men. Any officially composed prayer tends to reduce this personal communion to a rote repetition. Jesus said, “But when ye pray, use not vain (empty) repetitions * * *” (Matthew 6: 7). Religion is the highest expression of man's relation to God. And prayer is the highest expression of religion. Rather than the repetition of an official or composed prayer in our public schools, it would be better to have a moment of silent prayer, when each in his own words and in his own way would permit his finite spirit to reach out and up in communion with the infinite Spirit.
For these reasons it is my earnest hope that we shall in no way act to modify the essence of the first amendment. Instead, I invite you to join with me and all other citizens of our beloved Nation in a request that the Supreme Court itself shall so clarify the meaning of its decision that we shall have no reason to question its intentions.
Honored gentlemen, I thank you for your forbearance.
STATEMENT ON THE SUPREME COURT RULING REGARDING “REGENTS' PRAYER" BY
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS, WHEATON, ILL.
From the multitude of conflicting interpretations which have been expressed on the recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court against regents' prayer in the New York State schools, it is evident that the decision has resulted in general confusion. If three eminent constitutional lawyers interviewed by one of the major wire services are totally disagreed on what the Court said, is it any wonder that the mass of people are perplexed ?
For its constituency and for the Nation, the National Association of Evangelicals would like to (1) clarify its understanding of what the Court said, (2) express its concern over some of the ramifications of the decision, and (3) offer some constructive suggestions.
First of all, let us clearly understand the case which confronted the Court. The petitioning parents complained that their rights were violated because the school system which their children attended carried out the recommended practice of reciting a prayer which had been drafted by the New York State Board of Regents, the governing educational authority of that State. In upholding the plaintiffs, the majority of the Court—in a 6 to 1 decision-hinged its opinion on the following statement:
"In this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by any government.”
Justice Black, who wrote the majority opinion, carefully avoided striking down the prayer on the simple ground that it is a religious activity within a gov. ernmental institution. Instead, the prayer in question was ruled unconstitutional because it was written and sanctioned by an official governmental body. “This is no business of government under our constitutional system,” the opinion declares.
We do not take issue with the point of law on which the majority of the justices ruled. Indeed, if this has served to uphold the constitutional stipulation that church and state must be kept separate, we commend the Court for its sensitivity to the dangers involved in even the most minute intrusion upon religious freedom by an agency of government.
It is clear to us that the Court decided this case within very narrow limits. We would call to the attention of our constituency and others a footnote appearing in the majority opinion which could be one of the most historic footnotes ever attached to a governmental document. It said:
“There is of course nothing in the decision reached here that is inconsistent with the fact that schoolchildren and others are officially encouraged to express love for our country by reciting historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence which contain references to the Deity or by singing officially espoused anthems which include the composer's professions of faith in a Supreme Being, or with the fact that there are many manifestations in our public life of belief in God. Such patriotic or ceremonial occasions bear no true resemblance to the unquestioned religious exercise that the State of New York has sponsored in this instance."
The Court has disallowed prayer in the classroom only in circumstances like those in the New York case where the prayer itself was written by a governmental body. Any broader interpretation by friend or critic does violence to the ruling, which makes it obvious that the Court was unwilling to take this occasion to strike down the entire practice of recitation of prayers in the public schools.
However, the trend toward secularism which is inherent in this decision gravely concerns us. The majority opinion contends that the regents' prayer establishes the religious beliefs of that body, but this innocuous prayer is devoid of any doctrinal content beyond a basic theistic presupposition. What religious beliefs are contained in this prayer that are not already stated in the Declaration of Independence, the pledge to the flag, and the legend on our coins? That this prayer constitutes an “establishment of religion” is certainly arguable. Justice Stewart, in his dissenting opinion, does this very eloquently. “With all respect," he says, “I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an 'official religion' is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation."
The statement by Justice Douglas in his concurring opinion that "the first amendment leaves the Government in a position not of hostility to religion but of a neutrality” is an interpretation unacceptable to most Americans. The first amendment prohibits the establishment of a church or particular religious group by “Government support or preferential treatment. It does not espouse religious neutrality but on the contrary assumes faith in God, a faith which it guarantees the right of all citizens to express by engaging in whatever religious exercises they choose.
Mr. Douglas also contends that the issue is whether the Government "can constitutionally finance a religious exercise." His negative answer appears to mean that compensating chaplains for praying in the Houses of Congress, for conducting services in our military establishments, etc., is likewise unconstitutional. This seems to place Mr. Douglas in the position of advocating the completely secular state.
One would be hard pressed to demonstrate that the framers of the Constitution so intended. The divorcement of God from human government was completely alien to their theistic concepts. George Washington indicated as much in his inaugural address when he said: “It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to the Almighty Being who rules over the universe." To eliminate expressions of religious conviction and commitment, in deference to minority groups of objectors, from our schools and legislative assemblies would represent a repudiation of our religious heritage.
We would offer to all Americans, and especially to our evangelical constituency, the following suggestions to help bring order to the present confused state of affairs :