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In our view, none of the various resolutions proposed to authorize prayer in schools would do anything to enhance the education of American children. In many communities, on the contrary, the effect of such authorization would stimulate continuing pressure for inauguration of school prayer and counterpressure against it. Battles over the allocation of school time for acts of worship and over the language and suitability of particular prayers would divide community after community and wreak havoc upon their educational programs.
The objections to these proposals are not based upon any lack of understanding of the point of view of parents who want their children to benefit from all the resources of their particular faith for conviction and commitment to worthy ends. However, religious observance is not the proper function of the public school. Religious ceremonies achieve their fully intended meaning only within the home or in a congregation which holds in common the faith expressed by the ceremonies. Prayer in school, if it is to have meaning for those pupils who share the faith it implies, is bound to be offensive to the others. Even in the unlikely event that the theists in a community could agree upon a given prayer or religious ceremony, its use in the public schools would abrogate the rights of others who, though not theists, may have deep religious convictions.
Mechanical repetition of a prayer in a classroom atmosphere without religious background, on the other hand, is not good religion, and it certainly is not good education. The schools are hard pressed to perform their function of inspiring in students a love of learning. An act without meaning demeans both education and religion.
It seems to us that President Kennedy came closest to a constructive interpretation of the Supreme Court's decision when he pointed out that it placed squarely on the homes and the churches, responsibility for the religious training and development of our youth-a responsibility which can neither be delegated nor successfully shifted to any State agency. We believe that our churches and our homes are the safest and best places to conduct this training and, furthermore, that they are equal to the task. In our pluralistic society the encouragement and development of religious consecration and commitment must be left to the people themselves and to those the people choose to look to for religious guidance.
The school prayer decision is sound constitutionally and historically. The constitutional prohibition against establishment of religion is vital to the preservation of public education and has proved to be beneficial to education and religon in its present form.
The Public Education Association is strongly opposed to all pending proposals to amend the Constitution so as to permit prayer or religious services in schools.
THE RULING ARCHBISHOP AND DIOCESAN COUNCIL
OF NORTH-AMERICAN AND CANADIAN DIOCESE
New York, N.Y., October 20, 1962.
DEAR SENATOR EASTLAND: Thank you for your kind letter of the 17th instant.
I am commanded by the Synod of Bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Church Outside Russia to communicate with you and to register the synod's determined support for the proposed constitutional amendment stemming from the school prayer issue.
The Synod of Bishops entreats you and your colleagues to view with favor and to take vigorous, patriotic steps toward amending the Constitution so that it be firmly settled that article I solely and simply states that a state church is never to be established in the United States of America and that at no time is it unconstitutional for peaceful public prayer to be said in or at a government institution, the rights of unbelievers being duly protected.
The recent dismaying Supreme Court decision states in effect that children of religious parents and who have religious concepts do not have the right to public prayer in a government institution—the public school. The decision further implies that public prayer in a government facility is against the public weal.
If this point is left uncontested, how long might it be before occupants of other government facilities, a naval vessel or public hospital, are likewise told that they have no constitutional right to public prayer in these government institutions?
The opinion given by Mr. Justice Douglas clearly shows that he feels God has no place in any government activity. We are left with the foreboding of what to expect in the not too distant future.
This un-American decision lays the foundation for an irreligious state which is totally at odds with the aspirations of the Founding Fathers. If we today shrug off this corrosive assault upon the rights of the religious American, then, there is serious reason to believe that the rights which past generations of Americans enjoyed will not be passed on to future generations.
To protect the rights of the agnostic minority, the rights of the God-loving majority cannot be imperiled. I have the honor, sir, to remain, Yours sincerely in Our Lord,
ARCHBISHOP NIKON, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Secretary to the synod.
STATEMENT OF THE UNITARIAN FELLOWSHIP FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND THE UNI
TARIAN UNIVERSALIST ASSOCIATION, IN OPPOSITION TO SENATE JOINT RESOLUTIONS 205, 206, AND 207; SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 81, AND SENATE RESOLUTION 356
The Unitarian Fellowship for Social Justice, with headquarters at 245 Second Street NE., Washington, D.C., and the Unitarian Universalist Association, with headquarters at 25 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass., wish to record their opposition to the above resolutions and their support of the Supreme Court's decision in Engel v. Vitale.
The Supreme Court has made what appears to us a valid interpretation of the first amendment to the Constitution. Since 1791 this amendment has served the cause of good church-state relations in the United States. On the one hand, it has prevented the domination of the Government by religious bodies; on the other hand, it has permitted religious persons and groups to pursue their own religious interests without interference from any governmental authority. In striking down as unconstitutional the prayer composed by the Board of Regents of New York for use in the public schools of the State, the Court has affirmed the principle of freedom of religion as guaranteed by the first amendment.
When a governmental body takes upon itself the composing of prayers for uise in the public schools, it steps beyond its province. Prayers belong to the practice of religion. Religion is a personal matter, a relation between the individual and the deepest reality he knows. Religion is a family matter, a bond of a common commitment. Religion is the business of those institutions and movements which have as their primary concern the religious development of their adherents. The practice of religion is not the business of government.
We would also appose the use of a prayer in the public schools, such as the Lord's Prayer, which is derived from a particular religion. The use of such a prayer obviously discriminates against children who come from differing religions. The use of such a prayer, in our opinion, constitutes an establishment of religion, just as the use of the regents' prayer in New York State does.
Even a broadly phrased prayer such as the regents' prayer inevitably falls short of universality. Views of God and man's relationship to what is considered of ultimate reality are so varied that no prayer can include all views. Because it is not universally acceptable, the prayer constitutes religious discrimination. And because it represents no particular religious group but claims to represent them all, it really represents none adequately. Religion in general is hardly religion at all. Religion which lacks the dimension of commitment and faith is an empty shell.
We believe that in the Engel v. Vitale decision, the Supreme Court has ably discharged its duty to interpret the Constitution. Therefore, we oppose any attempt to override the Court's salutary interpretation and to alter the intent of the founders of our country to keep church and state separate. If the state engages in religious practices, religion in the United States will suffer. And if religion suffers, so will the Nation. We need government and we need religion, each working in its own sphere, each acting for the good of all.
STATEMENT BY GEORGE MAISLEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF AMERICA
Mr. Chairman, I should like to express my gratitude to you and to all the members of the Committee on the Judiciary for affording me this opportunity to express the views of the United Synagogue of America on the proposal, now under consideration by your committee, to enact an amendment to the Bill of Rights sanctioning the recitation of prayer in the country's public schools.
The United Synagogue of America, which I have the honor of serving as president, is the congregational arm of the conservative movement in Judaism and embraces more than 700 synagogues in the United States (as well as many in Canada). Their members and adherents total about a million and a half Jewish men, women, and children, representing approximately a third of the entire Jewish community of this country.
The proposal to amend the Bill of Rights, which has been the bulwark of the rights and the liberties of the American people for about 175 years, has been prompted largely by the Supreme Court's recent decision barring a governmentsponsored prayer from the public schools of New York State. The United Synagogue, which welcomed the Supreme Court's decision as conforming to the principle of separation of church and state, strongly opposes the proposed amendment on the ground that it would be repugnant to that principle.
The first amendment to the Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It is to the clause “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" that I would like to address myself; I believe that this clause has more bearing on the issue than the "establishment of religion" clause. We believe that there is general agreement that there has never been, and that there is not now, any intention of enacting the establishment of religion in America; that is to say that any system of theology or religious sect should be established by our Government, for our Government, to the exclusion of all other systems of theology or religious sects.
However, the proponents of the proposed amendment construe that portion of the first amendment that provides that no law shall be enacted prohibiting “the free exercise thereof" to mean that to bar prayers from the public schools violates the free exercise of religion. To circumvent the Supreme Court's decision, therefore, they seek to embody in the first amendment such language that will specifically provide for the right to offer prayers in the public schools.
We of the United Synagogue of America have carefully examined the proposed legislation and feel that we must all ask ourselves several questions. First, when our Founding Fathers framed the first amendment, what did they have in mind? Did they desire an interpretation such as that reflected in the Supreme Court's decision or such as that reflected in the proposed amendment? If, were they living today, they would welcome the Court's interpretation. We must then ask ourselves: Do the proponents of the proposed amendment desire to change the Founding Fathers' original concept of religious freedom, and if so, for what compelling reason? On the other hand, if the proponents of the proposed amendment believe that our Founding Fathers never intended the interpretation of the Supreme Court, then we must examine the historical development of the first amendment.
When James Madison was asked to prepare a statement of the full case for separation of church and state, he wrote the famous "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments." Both Madison and Jefferson, who sponsored the Bill of Rights that was ultimately adopted, were religious men, and there was no irreligious or atheistic force in their desire to create the “wall of separation between Church and State," as Thomas Jefferson expressed it; rather, they had in mind the historical background of their ancestors: the persecution of Baptists and Quakers and other religious sects. Our Founding Fathers were students of history as well as statesmen of stature. For the first time in the history of any nation, a new principle of government was promulgated specifying that religion was to be kept outside the authority of government and that the government was forbidden to infringe upon religious rights or to violate them.
So that in the formative period of our Government, when our Constitution was molded, this doctrine of separation of church and state was clearly enunciated. Bancroft, in his “History of the Formation of the Constitution," wrote:
"Vindicating the right of individuality even in religion, and in religion above all, the new Nation dared to set the example of accepting in its relation to God
the principle first divinely ordained in Judea. It left the management of temporal things to the temporal power, but the American Constitution, in harmony with the people of the several States, withheld from the Federal Government the power to invade the house of reason, the citadel of conscience, the sanctuary of the soul, and not from indifference, but that the infinite spirit of eternal truth might move in its freedom and purity and power.”
In 1796 George Washington, in negotiating the treaty with Tripoli which was sent to the Senate in 1797 during the Presidency of John Adams, wrote the following significant words, which should allay any doubt as to the religious character of our Government:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Mussulman; and as the said states have never entered into any war or active hostility against any Mohammedan natives, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of harmony existing between the two nations."
As Richard M. Johnson said in his famous report to the Congress as to whether the mail should be carried on Sunday:
"What other nations call religious toleration, we call religious rights. They are not exercised in virtue of governmental indulgence, but as rights of which the Government cannot deprive any portion of citizens, however small. Despotic power may invade those rights, but justice still confirms them. The agnostic, the infidel, the nonbeliever of every stripe and shade, find protection beneath the aegis of that noblest emanation from the human intellect, our Constitution."
The interpretation of the Supreme Court in the case of the regents prayer is in consonance with the thinking of the Supreme Court of Ohio in the 1870's, in the case of Minor v. Board of Education, which sustained an ordinance forbidding the reading of the Bible in schools. The opinion was read by Judge Alonzo Taft, the father of our illustrious late President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft.
In considering the applicability of the phrase "the free exercise thereof" to the issue at hand, I should like to submit to this committee what I may call the concept of the captive child. Many pupils of tender years attending public school have little or no religious training in the home, and are therefore unable to recognize or to discriminate among the prayers offered in the public schools. They are unable to make a judgment as to whether they want to participate in such prayers.
Under our system of compulsory education, the child is required by law to attend public school, unless he desires or is able to attend an accredited parochial or private school. Children who attend public schools do so under compulsion of law. They have no choice in the selection of their teachers. They have no choice in the selection of their classmates, who may be of different religious faiths. In compelling the child to attend a public school, there is a basic violation of his constitutional right of association, which is, however, justified under the concept of public welfare, that is to say, the "balancing power” of the Constitution.
This justification, however, is valid only for the purpose of securing the child's secular education. Within the scope of this justification for Government involvement in secular education there can be no room for Government involvement in religious education through the addition of prayer to the secular curriculum or indeed through the introduction of any form of religious observance in the school program.
Such Government involvement in religious education could not possibly be construed as falling within the meaning of free exercise of religion. To impose upon the captive child-although his captivity is justified by the compelling and overriding purpose of guaranteeing his secular education—any form of religious observance would mean to subject him even if only for a few moments to a denial of his religious freedom. If going to school were a voluntary deed, done with full knowledge of the secular and religious influences to which the child is exposed, it would be no abridgement of his religious freedom to introduce religious elements into the school program. Indeed, because he was attending voluntarily, he would in a way be exercising religious freedom. If he disagreed with any portion of the curriculum, secular or religious, he would have the freedom of choice to exercise his freedom of religion by absenting himself from the school.
Our children today do not have that freedom of choice about going to school. The child is not free to absent himself from school because he disagrees with any part of the curriculum. To guarantee freedom of religion, therefore, the
only means open to us is to abstain from introducing any religious element in the curriculum. Only thus can we secure for the child the guarantee of the first amendment that the Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. By introducing prayer in the public schools there is a coercive, compulsive, or at the very least a subtly persuasive form of religion which violates the constitutional "free exercise thereof."
For that period of time that the religious prayer is recited in the school, the school becomes a house of worship. To that house of worship we would, under our system of compulsory education, be sending our children willy-nilly. On the American scene religion has always been and should always be a voluntary right in every sense of the word, not to be abrogated for any period of time, however brief.
This concept of the captive child, it seems to us of the United Synagogue, lies at the heart of the Supreme Court's decision, as it lies at the very core of religious freedom. We feel that our children should be taught religion; the Old Testament enjoins us, “These words, which I command thee, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children." But those children should be taught God's words where alone such teaching can be of value in a free atmosphere devoid of any hint or taint of coercion, at a time and place of the parents' own choosing, in a form and manner acceptable to the family's religious convictions. Religion must be taught always to a free child, never to a captive child. In the language of the Constitution, the child must be able to pray in the free exercise of his religious rights. He must never pray where governmental authority has told him he must.
The United Synagogue of America earnestly prays that no legislation will be enacted by the Congress which will in any way compel or threaten to compel the children of America to worship in Government agencies or under the aegis of temporal authority. The religious training of American children should be permitted to flourish in church, synagogue, and home, where it belongs. Religion cannot become, however remotely, an arm of Government.
STATEMENT ON PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION CONCERNING
PRAYERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, SUBMITTED TO THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY BY 110 DEANS AND PROFESSORS OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES
In our Nation the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the Supreme Court is the tribunal to which has been committed the responsibility for the final interpretation of its provisions. As a people committed to the rule of law we are obligated to comply with the restrictions imposed upon us by the Constitution as interpreted by the Court, whether or not we agree with the constitutional provision or its interpretation. The people of the United States, of course, have it within their power to change the Constitution by amending it in accordance with its terms, and the recent decision of the Court in the case of Engel v. Vitale (370 U.S. 421), invalidating public school sponsored recitation of prayer has given rise to proposals to amend the Constitution, and specifically the first section of its Bill of Rights, to authorize such recitation.
We express our strong opposition to any tampering with the Bill of Rights. We believe the decision of the Supreme Court to be required, not only by its prior decisions interpreting the first amendment, but by the cause of religious freedom and the welfare of all Americans as well.
It is not the Supreme Court's decision but the action of State authorities in sponsoring public school recitation of prayer that is truly hurtful to religion. It is unreal to expect that an appreciation of religious values can be communicated to our children by the rote recitation of formalized prayer in public school classrooms. Whatever is good and meaningful in prayer must inevitably be lost by its mechanical repetition in an atmosphere devoid of the religious spirit which only the home and church can provide.
If the prayer selected by State authorities for public school recitation is taken from the liturgy of one faith, the action is unfair to and a violation of the religious freedom of children adhering to other faiths. If it is formulated so as to appear nonsectarian, as in the case of the New York regents' prayer, it not only infringes upon the rights of those affiliated with no religious body, but it poses the danger of the establishment of a new, public school religion which, in seeking to be least offensive, will succeed only in being least meaningful, and yet most pervasive.