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FLINT JEWISH COMMUNITY COUNCIL,
Flint, Mich., August 16, 1962. Hon. ESTES KEFAUVER, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SENATOR KEFAUVER: We are writing with reference to the hearings now being conducted before the Judiciary Committee, which is considering proposals for amendment to the Constitution in view of the Supreme Court decision on the regents school prayer in New York.
We are opposed to any amendment which would tamper with the guarantees set forth in the Bill of Rights. Freedom of religion is a keystone of the American way of life. Any change in the Bill of Rights would only weaken this important safeguard. We commend the Supreme Court for their decision, which is in the best interests of all Americans.
We respectfully request that this expression of our opposition to a constitutional amendment be incorporated in the record of the hearings. Respectfully,
IRVING L. GEISSER,
IN RE STATEMENT TO THE U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, JAMES 0.
EASTLAND, CHAIRMAN, ON PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS AND CONCURRENT RESOLUTIONS REGARDING PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND WITH REFERENCE TO CONSIDERATION OF AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, APPERTAINING TO MATTERS OF PRAYER, IN PARTICULAR ARTICLE I, AMENDMENTS TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
(By Raymond R. Start, Esq., Upper Darby, Pa.) Gentlemen, the average citizens in States of the Union must, by inherent moral and religious training, feel frustrated and abandoned by the immediate and objective aspects of the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, banning the use of a prayer suggested by the board of regents, a State agency, a nonsectarian prayer, for use in the schools of that State. The prayer was simple, all encompassing in its reference to one God, and is quoted as follows:
“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”
Legalistic arguments, no matter how astutely arrived and concocted, will to eternity conflict with positive and carefully nurtured conscience of the people. We have all witnessed the battle between conscience and law, and I have yet to know of a positive change in conscience, which having been well and properly established, in the face of legal pressures. We do, indeed, live by our conscience and, truly speaking, “our conscience is our foundation and lighted lamp to show the way.”
But, to understand the basis of religious and truly godly approach in public institutions, one must know that the impetus which brought the embryo to fruition in the New World colonies was the reliance upon the divine power of God, to guide all peoples in a direction of freedom, security, and peace among
The great majority of immigrants to the colonies in the pre-Revolutionary provinces in this country were those who wished to rely upon these godly premises, and the beneficience granted in their use, occupancy, and opportunities for growth in the human sense, to a time immemorial. History records that the treacherous route across almost uncharted oceans to these shores by the early Pilgrims was marked by constant reliance in prayer upon the one divine power, the one God. When those Pilgrim Fathers landed in the year 1620, the Pilgrim Rock was devised a sanctuary while the Pilgrims bowed and thanked Almighty God for their deliverance to the New World. Thus was initiated the fundamental and everlasting basis for progress in life in these United States of America.
The mosaic pattern which grew into being in this country soon found need for its strength and continued growth in freedom, in the unity of the provinces and their people, under God, and a United States of America. At no time, in the tremendous and personal sacrifices of the patriots who brought forth the groundwork and consequent being of the United States of America, was there con
sidered any possible chance of success without the reliance upon God and His omnipotent power. All recognized one God, and from the beginning of time in our pre-Revolutionary colonies, the Almighty God was asked to aid the patriotic and religious fervor under Him, which was deemed a basic combination of human endeavor to give freedom of religion and personal rights to all.
My study and reverent contemplation of the colonial atmosphere existing among the colonists reveals to me that it was not considered State control (or governmenal control in the sense of control in the mother country) to exercise he call for divine providence to help all concerned. Herein was found, and established, a religious unity, with no abridgment of personal concepts of religion, which primarily brought to immortal success, this United States of America,
Thus the conscience of our people was established, and it became inherein, over the centuries, to the progeny which followed in the development of the free United States of America, under our Constitution.
Now, to try and impress upon that established American conscience that a public prayer, in a public school, is unconstitutional, is a devious, malignant. and invidious approach to the further reliance upon divine power of God to give strength to the continuity of our United States of America. No amount of legal maneuvering, and decisions by our courts, will succeed in brainwashing the conscience of the majority of our people, and make it stick. History pronounces this well-known truth.
We all revere the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall; and the conscience of our people in the United States of America is enshrined in the mortal existence of that bell, and under the tender care of the Government of the United States of America to eternity. Be it known, that the originator of that Liberty Bell is historically recorded as being Isaac Morris, speaker in the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania, in 1751. By the suggestion of Isaac Morris, and unanimously agreed upon by the representatives of the people in the colony, the Liberty Bell, as brought forth for everlasting meaning of freedom, under God, was inscribed with a passage from the Bible, Leviticus XXV–10, with these biblical words: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”.
Surely this inclusion, forevermore inscribed in the hearts and minds of the world, rendered unto our own citizens of the United States of America without protest from individuals, or groups minority or majority, of any religious order, must be evidence of public reliance upon the Bible, and the one God. Herein, marking the reverence of our country to the world forevermore, was proof positive of a belief binding the spiritual nature of man to a supernatural being, and involving a feeling of dependence and responsibility, together with the feelings and practices which naturally flow from such a belief. The true nature of our country, springing from the great embryo, is reliance upon one Supreme Being, self-existent and eternal; the Infinite Maker, Sustainer, and Ruler of the Universe. These marks of our total existence were a reaffirmation of the quoted words of William Penn: "Men must either be governed by God or ruled by tyrants."
And there followed the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin : “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principle of Christianity, will secure the blessings of God to our Nation."
In the month of May 1776, the Continental Congress, in its bitter struggle to renounce every kind of authority under the British Crown, at a conference of committees held at Carpenter's Hall, June 18, 1776, resolved that it “was necessary to call a Provincial Convention to form a new government in the authority of the people only, and the following religious test was proposed to the members thereof."
"I * * * do profess in God the Father, and to Jesus Christ His Eternal Son, the true God, and in the Holy Spirit, One God blessed evermore, and do acknowledge the sacred scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration." (Adopted by the Constitution.)
The above is to be found in Pennsylvania Archives, volume III, Sec. Series, VA. 3, Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pa.
Thus, again, we see the fundamental reliance by the earliest architects of this country, upon the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and one Blessed God. It seems reasonable that we can believe the Constitution of the United States did not predicate article I, amendment to the Constitution, upon a forbearance by the public officials, or public-supported institutions, of an admission by all the inhabitants of our land, of one Almighty God, such as set forth in the regents' prayer in New York.
Every nominee for the Presidency of the United States, to my own recollection, has called upon God to aid and guide him in his destined path of leadership of the United States.
All the courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, has opened its proceeding in the name of God.
Our money is inscribed “In God we trust."
Our oath of allegiance to the United State of America includes the words, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Prayer is recognized as an integral part of the traditional training of cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy, and is urged and practiced by regulation at the Academy, at all times. The oath on admission to the Naval Academy by the midshipmen, members of the civilian faculty, as well as the oath taken by a commissioned officer upon acceptance of office, states in these words:
“I *** having been appointed a midshipman in the U.S. Navy, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the Uniter! States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."
Likewise, the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., are required to attend religious services at the Academy. The oath of allegiance, administered to cadets on the day they enter the Military Academy and the oath of office, administered to the first class (senior) cadets on the day that they are graduated and commissioned, states as follows:
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE
“I *** do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the National Government; that I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, or fealty I may owe to any State, county, or country whatsoever; and that I will at all times obey the legal orders of my superior officers and the rules and articles governing the armies of the United States."
OATH OF OFFICE
“I *** having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above, in the grade of
do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, so help me God."
Without a doubt, the Government of the United States of America has seen fit to accept the dominion of one God over its trusted servants, in its requirements as contained in the above two oaths at its service academies, ending the oaths with the all-important words of heavenly askance, “so help me God.”
It is reasonable to state that most all public proceedings are buttressed by reliance by a prayer and a call for divine guidance. These principles of public reliance upon religious strength, obtained from the word of God in the Bible, have always been enunciated with, and from, the inner conscience of the people everywhere, and unequivocably.
I must refer, as a matter of personal experience and knowledge, to Girard College, an orphan college established by a great American, Stephen Girard. I was the fortunate receipient of the benevolence of this patriotic citizen, and in that great institution for orphans there are nurtured boys from the ages of 7 to 18 years, who grow into young manhood with a constant background of reliance upon God and His word in the Bible. Every day, during approximately 10 years' time, and sometimes twice a day, religious services are held in the chapel of the college. And it is remarkable to note that the boys comprising the student body of over 1,000 comprise every religious creed. The young boys are indelibly impressed with the fact of God, one God, and the dominion of God for all. It is true that no clergyman, identified as such, is accepted in the college by the will of Stephen Girard, but the fact is that Stephen Girard believed it proper not to subject the tender minds of the boys with a particular creed but to give the boys understanding, light, moral training, and inward culture under one God, from the open Bible, and with instructions from laymen of prominence, and the school faculty. This outstanding example of a school where the youth is cultured with the great word of God throughout his formulative period of life is proof beyond contest in the need and worth of recognition of God in school life. Girard College sends forth men to the world who have been blessed with the same benevolence from God as was Stephen Girard, whose inspiration from God brought into being the greatest philanthropy known to mankind, and in perpetual existence since 1848, in Philadephia, Pa,
All public proceedings for naturalization in our courts, and elsewhere, include a prayer by a religious person, under one God.
Our prisons and places of detention are a marked example of the need and reliance upon divine guidance, with all creeds supplied daily by a religious personnel. The macabre example of a person walking to his death in the electric chair is softened, and forgiveness asked of God. In my experience as district attorney of Delaware County, Pa., from 1952 to 1960, I learned that all unfortunate persons utter their last words as a plea to God for forgiveness.
There are chaplains of all creeds in the Armed Forces, serving the need of the personnel, with full reliance upon one God over all.
Our legislative bodies, and during the swearing in of elected officials, is couched on the Holy Bible.
Witnesses in court or in any judicial proceeding are required to swear, or affirm, and failure to testify on the holy oath, bears dire consequences of perjury. Thus is found the strength of belief in one who will swear on the Bible, the support of one God.
On August 10, 1962, the Philadelphia Inquirer carried newsprint entitled “Majority of Teeners Dispute High Court School Prayer Ruling." The article is revealing in that it points out the need of youth to understand prayer and one God, and their cry forthwith to quickly put into action safeguards to permit a non-secetarian-type prayer in schools.
The failure of the Constitution of the United States of America to recognize in practice, if that is so determined finally by our Supreme Court, the need of non-sectarian-type prayer in all grades of schools, must, of necessity, give rise to an overflow of youth to sectarian-type schools, parochial schools, private institutions, where prayer is a basic part of the curriculum. Thus, by failure of public authority to recognize the true "conscience of the people,” we are nurturing a classification of youth into public schools without prayer, and huge segments of our youth in sectarian schools where the benefit of prayer and recognition of one God is accepted. It is this sort of schism, by legal maneuvering and interpretation, and by lack of recognition of the fundamental feeling of the framers of the Constitution, and the members of the Constitutional Convention, that will bring forth a nation of schizophrenic nationals. The majority must surely be given opportunity to voice a planned safeguard in this matter.
It was the viewpoint of the celebrated Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. Supreme Court, that there are constant changes occurring in life that require similar changes in the law, which must be the expression of life. Relying upon absolutes is incompatible with the growing and constant flow of "conscience of the people.”
The immortal document, establishing freedom, and enunciating the rights of people, indivisible and indestructive, our Constitution of the United States of America bespeaks the one God. Under what reasonably human precept can anyone now deny the necessity, as well as the divine right, to accept God in every phase of life from the cradle to the grave. Denominational differences cannot efface the right of all our people to be strengthened in their soul by the recognition, outwardly and without equivocation, by the guidance and fatherhood of one God. Actually, any interpretation to the contrary, as I see and understand the matter in laymen form, would in itself violate "each student's right to freedom of speech and religion as guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution," as so eloquently set forth in a public statement by the New York State Americanism Committee of the American Legion and other patriotic organizations. The United States of America, as leader of the free world, should lead in the power of prayer, instead of banning it from our public schools, the fountainhead of moral culture upon which the future will rise or fall.
The irrefutable facts today disclose that the Red world fears the power of religion. The Communist cosmonauts jeered about not seeing God in space. They knew that they looked into their own hearts they would find Him
there. It is the blindness, from within the hearts and souls of people, to see, know, and accept the dominion of one God, that gives rise to such ideology as espoused in arrogant form by the Red world.
The Red world recognizes God and religion, as enemies and, therefore, the free world should recognize them as allies against Communist tyranny. Prayer may move faster than ballistic missiles, strike harder against Red tyranny than H-bombs.
In an address by J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the national convention of the American Legion in Las Vegas, Nev., on October 9, 1962, entitled "An American Challenge,” there were included thoughts pertinent to this subject matter. Said Mr. Hoover: "What has happened to the time-honored precepts of hard work and fairplay which influenced the American scene during the all-important formative years of this great Re public? Where is the faith in God which fortified us through our past trials? Have our national pride, our moral conscience, our sensitivity to filth and degradation, grown so weak that they no longer react to assaults upon our proud heritage of freedom ?”
“Crime and subversion are formidable problems in the United States today because, and only because, there is a dangerous flaw in our Nation's moral armor. Self-indulgence –the principle of pleasure before duty-is practiced across the length and breadth of the land. It is undermining those attributes of personal responsibility and self-discipline which are essential to our national survival. It is creating citizens who reach maturity with a warped sense of values and * * * an undeveloped conscience * * *."
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Nothing is of more importance for the public weal than to train youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of a state; much more so than riches or arms."
“We must assemble our strength—the moral strength endowed upon us by our creator, the Author of Liberty. We must reaffirm our determination—the God-inspired determination to protect our freedoms and safeguard our democratic heritage'at all costs.
“In the heat of an all-out struggle with an alien godless ideology, this Nation needs all the prayers it can get. Prayer and devotion to our Creator are basic to American strength and courage.
"There is a vast difference between Americanism and communism. One teaches morality; the other, expediency. One follows the law of God; the other, no law. One is founded upon spiritual values; the other is complete secularism. One is characterized by deep religious conviction; the other, by ruthless, atheistic màterialism. The Communist world is a world of walls, searchlights, and guardsa prison for the heart, mind, and soul."
And, to refer again to Mr. Hoover's thoughts in given strength to this discussion, it was stated: “Let us all work that there may be a rebirth of freedom under God in our Nation."
As Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., said, "Freedom, devotion to God and country are not things of the past. They will never become old fashioned.”
It is what a nation has in its heart, rather than what it has in its hand, that makes it strong. The nation which honors God is protected and strengthened by Him.
We are a God-loving people. This is our greatest strength.
Let our national motto always be, "In God we trust.” In August 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a letter to the servicemen of the United States, urging them to read the Bible. (The message was published in the Congressional Record for August 18, 1917.) It said:
“The Bible is the word of life. I beg that you will read it and find this out for yourselves. Read, not little snatches here and there, but long passages that will really be the road to the heart of it. You will find it not only full of real men and women but also of things you have wondered about and been troubled about all your life, as men have been always; and the more you read, the more it will become plain to you what things are worth while and what are not, what things make men happy-loyalty, right dealings, speaking the truth, readiness to give everything for what they think their duty, and, most of all, the wish that they may have the real approval of the Christ, who gave everything for themand the things that are guaranteed to make men unhappy: selfishness, cowardice, greed, and everything that is low and mean. When you have read the Bible you will know that it is the word of God, because you will have found it the key to your own heart, your own happiness, and your own duty."