« ÎnapoiContinuă »
prescribed by the board of education of Union Free School District No. 9, New Hyde Park, N.Y., on the recommendation of the State board of regents: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country," violates the 1st and 14th amendments to the Constitution of the United States insofar as the said State board of regents could not prescribe the aforesaid prayer and prescribe that the same be read by a teacher at the start of each classroom day: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, by The American Legion duly assembled in national convention in Las Vegas, Nev., October 5-11, 1962, That the Congress of these United States propose, pass, and submit to the several sovereign States for ratification a constitutional amendment that would enable spoken prayer of a free and voluntary nature to be said in any and every location and place, including public schools, where citizens of the United States may gather, so that all persons may recognize a Supreme Being; and, be it further
Resolved, That pending the ratification of such constitutional amendment :
1. Parents be urged without delay to agree upon a prayer acknowledging our dependence upon God and asking His blessings, and that they request local school boards to permit the voluntary recitation of such a prayer by children at the beginning of each schoolday;
2. School boards be urged to grant said permission in timely manner, assured that such official act granting permission would not be the establishment of any procedure of the nature prohibited in the regents' prayer decision or prohibited by the first amendment of the Constitution; and
3. The national commander of The American Legion immediately request the Americanism Commission to formulate a procedure whereby all posts of The American Legion will forthwith take the initiative in encouraging parents and school boards to implement the aforesaid procedure.
STATEMENT OF ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE OF B'NAI B'RITH
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith appreciates this opportunity to state its views on the several resolutions before the Senate Judiciary Committee which would amend the establishment-of-religion clause of the first amendment to the Constitution because of disagreement with the Supreme Court's decision in the Regents' Prayer case.
We would note at the outset that many of the resolutions introduced and the congressional speeches made following the Court's decision in Engel v. Vitale seem quite unrelated to the specific ruling in that case. The conclusion is inescapable that the furor generated by the decision was not so much a response to the majority opinion of the Court as an emotional reaction either to imprecise newspaper headlines or to the obiter dicta of the single concurring opinion.
We believe it unnecessary, if not presumptuous, to reargue the Regents' Prayer case to show that the Court correctly decided the issue under the Constitution. What we submit here is that the Court's decision is at once in the best interest of the American polity and of authentic religion.
The great foreign observers of American life, James Bryce and Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote, a century ago, with admiration—and no little envy of the striking success of the American experiment with the principle of separation of church and state. They found the American Government relatively free of the religious pressures and controversies which beset the countries of Europe, even those countries where the population was religiously homogeneous. At the same time, they reported that religious life in America was all the more vigorous and pure because American churches had to stand on their own feet without that support of government which inevitably entails intervention, compromise, and subservience.
What these observers reported over the past century is all the more true today. The churches and synagogues of America are more numerous, more solvent and better attended than they have ever been. To change the establishment-of-religion clause under which they have prospered is to open a Pandora's box. Current pressures for Government aid to religious institutions are great but manageable. Although violations of the first amendment are not uncommon, the great majority of Government officials understand the constitutional mandate and respect it. To change that language would provide not only for so-called nondenominational school prayers, but would inevitably introduce uncertainty, temptation, and increased pressures for Government favors.
The real dangers which lie in tampering with the first amendment are clear; they outweigh the claimed benefit from the recitation by rote of an officially sanctioned prayer. Theologians tell us such recitation is of dubious religious value; teachers tell us it is educationally unsound. The experience of the countries that became Communist or Fascist and where religion was degraded reinforces this advice in the past, these regimented states were largely characterized by regimentation in religion and prayer.
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith includes a great number of people who devoutly worship God, and to whom religion is a matter of the most serious moment. The Reverend Dean Kelley, executive director of the department of religious liberty of the National Council of Churches of Christ, has been gracious enough to say of the Jews, "They have a genuine religion concern centuries older than Christianity, that faith should not be external, mechanical, official, lest it become idolatry.'
We cite Reverend Kelley's statement only to emphasize the concern that Jews share with millions of Christians who also take their religion seriously. To them an official compulsory prayer is a contradiction in terms. Such a prayer may be an expression of religiosity, not of devotion. Archbishop O'Boyle has warned that "although, at first glance, piety seems to be everywhere" religion is being used as a "benign sedative." Spiritual leaders of the Protestant and Catholic faiths, as well as the Jewish, refuse to accept the shadow for the substance, and question whether the new "official" piety and the gleaming new churches are the signs of an authentic religious revival. But is not this a judgment to be made by higher authority than the Congress?
The Anti-Defamation League believes that the moral of American history is plain: The first amendment works-under it, religion and sound government have flourished. The Supreme Court's interpretation of the amendment in the School Prayer case is in the best American tradition and serves religion and religious freedom. It should be left undisturbed to grow in strength and veneration.
STATEMENT ON PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, BY C. EMANUEL CARLSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BAPTIST JOINT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC AFFAIRS
I appreciate that the Senate Judiciary Committee has consented to include a statement which attempts to reflect the Baptist concern for voluntary prayer and, more specifically, to state our Baptist approach to the church-state issues which might be involved in the recent decision by the Supreme Court.
Six Baptist conventions in the United States cooperate to maintain a Washington observation post and communications center. These conventions number something over 20 million Baptists as members. The cooperating conventions
Southern Baptist Convention;
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.;
National Baptist Convention of America;
Baptist General Conference; and
North American Baptist General Conference.
Each convention is represented in the Joint Committee on Public Affairs by a delegation of responsible leaders representing several agencies and programs within that convention. This joint committee endeavors to maintain a constant study and participation in the various church-state problems that arise.
For some time, the Baptist Joint Committee has been aware that religious "observances" in the public schools are a source of controversy in some American communities. Several reports and conversations have dealt with the problem. At the March 1962 meeting the joint committee voted to place this issue formally on the agenda for the meeting in October and made arrangements for the preparation of study materials and action drafts. In the meantime the decision by the Supreme Court was handed down.
When the Supreme Court's decision was first handed down, some of the mass media, and some public leaders, interpreted it as a restraint on the teachers' and the pupils' freedom to pray. This interpretation normally brought forth a defense of the freedom to pray, premised on the provision that there shall be no restraint on the free exercise of religion. Closer study of the decision, however, made it clear that this decision does not restrain people from prayer,
but that it restrains governments from the formulation and promotion of official prayers. Accordingly, while some few initial reactions were in defense of the right to pray, the full force of deliberate Baptist opinion has been in defense of religious liberty by this proper restraint on government. In the regular meeting of the Joint Committee on Public Affairs, October 2-3, 1962, the entire record was reviewed, and the following statement adopted by the committee:
"We concur with the decision of the Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale that prayer 'composed by Government officials as a part of a governmental program to further religious beliefs' is and should be unconstitutional. We think, along with the Court, 'that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that 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 government.'
"We further believe, in the words of the Court, '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.'
"We find that the decision in the New York Regents' Prayer case (Engel v. Vitale) the Court made no attempt to limit or restrict the prayer life of the people, but that the decision was a restraint on government from regulating such prayer life. This decision is in harmony with the voluntary nature of genuine religious experience. Its effect should be to challenge the churches and the homes of the Nation to become more responsible for the religious nurture of the people and not to look to government for this function.
"It is our belief that the first amendment provides satisfactory safeguards for the religious liberty of our people and of our churches. Since it clearly states that there shall be no establishment of religion, and that the free exercise of religion shall not be prohibited, we believe that the first amendment should stand unaltered as it now appears in the Bill of Rights."
Whatever differences of opinion may exist among Baptists, on the scope of government, apparently we are now dealing with an item on which there is an exceptional agreement. This agreement is the product of a long history in which religion has frequently been made to serve political ends, and in which man's freedom and responsibility, under God, has often been challenged by persons holding civic authority.
We have followed, with some care, the various expressions of sentiments which have been laid before the public with reference to the Court's decision. Many of these expressions seem to be irrelevant to the actual decision. Many have dealt with possible abuses which could develop in some future interpretations. However, I am confident that this able committee of the Senate will not propose a constitutional revision which is irrelevant to the actual determination of the present time. I am, therefore, compelled to assume that the committee is exploring the possible need of a revision which would authorize State or local boards of education to formulate, prescribe, and/or promote official prayer in the public schools.
There can be little doubt that any proposal to make legislation of prayer formulas constitutional will be critically analyzed by our Baptist pastors and our Baptist people. This will be done as a defense of the American heritage, accepting the period since 1789 as our true national heritage rather than the practices of the colonial establishments. It will also be done as a defense of freedom of the people from governmental regulation of the inner man, as a defense of sincerity in religious participation, and, accordingly, as a defense against the evils of communism and secularism.
Any attempt to formulate official prayers by means of political procedures and processes could only lead to a reopening of old struggles and oppressions. The attempt would throw into the political arena all of the differences on approach, position, time, verbal formulas, artifacts, and meanings which various Americans find and use in prayer.
Baptists have been strong supporters of good public education. The central purposes of such education are to produce civic competence in all of the people, to enable all to contribute their full potential to the economy and the culture of the community. These schools are designed to perpetuate American culture, but Baptists are not ordinarily prone to treat religion in general, nor prayer specifically, as being simply national culture. Ideally, we would view the public
school as an agency of community life with the maximum possible freedom but within the proper constitutional limits which protect the rights of the people. This will mean that there may be other determinations yet to be made regarding the proper balance between the no-establishment provision vis-a-vis the norestraint clause of the first amendment. The present restraint on the role of government, which we will generally support, does not settle other questions which may arise regarding the propriety of voluntary prayer or religious exercises on the initiative of teachers or pupils. These may involve future rulings but we would hope that the tensions may be resolved by community good will and consideration. We are hopeful that the Court will again prove to be a friend of religious liberty if or when questions should arise which challenge the free exercise of religion.
The broad consensus among Baptists on these matters is well portrayed by a reading of the printed materials. Accordingly, I submit for the committee's record a generous sampling of Baptist thought from June 27 to the present date. A much larger compilation of similar statements by responsible Baptist leaders could be assembled, but these will be sufficient to illustrate the consensus of Baptist thinking on the subject at hand. All of these items have received wide circulation in Baptist publications throughout the Nation.
[1. Baptist Press feature, June 27, 1962]
CARLSON CALLS FOR DELIBERATION ON PRAYER LEGISLATION
(By C. Emanuel Carlson, executive director, Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs)
At the March meeting of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs the problem of proper religious expressions in the public schools was placed on the agenda for next October. Arrangements were made for the preparation of materials for discussion and action. The committee may have something to say as a committee in October. In the meantime, I speak only for myself. Nevertheless, I must urge that we keep the issue clear, and encourage a thoughtful public discussion of it. Out of such a discussion, carried out in a spirit of good will, we Americans may rediscover the nature of true prayer. In the New York Prayer case, the Supreme Court has really faced only one issue shall government agencies direct the prayers of the American people? This question points to the very heart of the Baptist movement. Present-day Baptists will want to proceed deliberately and prayerfully as they formulate their role in this new public debate on an old, old problem. The information service of our office will offer full text of the Court's decision and a running account of the discussions. Baptists will be particularly interested because the decision recounts much of our distress in the past. The decision is full of Baptist history, and of Baptist insights.
All friends of genuine prayer experience must obviously be cautious about the devising of prayers by government agencies. Unfortunately, some have thought the question to be whether they were for or against prayer.
Much of the confusion apparently has resulted from the prior arguments used. In the comments of recent months the missing factor was clarity as to what prayer is. When one thinks of prayer as sincere outreach of a human soul to the Creator, "required prayer" becomes an absurdity. The "recitation of a prayer" has been called morally uplifting without recognizing that hypocrisy is the worst of moral corrosion. Some have felt that our "national heritage" is in danger, without realizing that the distinctive of our heritage is not legislated prayer but a people praying in freedom under the guidance of their church and of the Spirit of God. The strangeness of the present debate is that the call for "less government" coincides with a public defense for government-formulated prayer. Obviously, we need time to rethink the New Testament premises of our faith and practice, and also to rethink the meaning of American history.
Fortunately there are two provisions in the freedom of religion clause of the first amendment. There shall be no "establishment," and there shall be no "restraint on the free exercise." I hope the Court will defend both.
During the intense discussions that are probable, Baptists will want to assist the American public come to a true understanding and experience of prayer. The issues of our day, including the problems of communism and of secularization, will not be solved by the prayer formulas set up by official agencies. As Americans, we must go deeper than legislation and conformity in order to meet the call of God upon us in our day.
[2. Baptist Press news report, June 27, 1962]
PRAYER BY LEGISLATION VIOLATES CONSTITUTION
WASHINGTON.-Prayer "composed by governmental officials as a part of a governmental program to further religious beliefs" is unconstitutional, according to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Court ruled (6 to 1) that the so-called regents' prayer in the State of New York violates the establishment clause of the first amendment. The prayer
"Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country."
The State board of regents in New York is a governmental agency created by the State constitution. It has broad supervisory, executive, and legislative powers over the State's public school system.
In 1951, these State officials composed the prayer for use in the public schools every morning along with the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States. The teacher was obliged to conduct this opening exercise, but the pupils participated or refused to participate voluntarily.
The Court presented a 15-page opinion, read by Mr. Justice Black. Mr. Justice Douglas concurred with the decision, but for a different reason from that given by the others. Mr. Justice Stewart presented a six-page dissent.
In ruling out the regents' prayer the Court said: "We think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that 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 government."
An officially composed and administered prayer by government constitutes an "establishment" of religion, according to the Court. This is expressly forbidden by the first amendment.
The Court went out of its way to point out that its action is not hostility toward religion or prayer. It is for the protection of religion and to guarantee its free exercise that the Court arrived at its conclusions, the decision said.
"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 Court said.
In its opinion the Court reviewed the struggle for religious freedom in England and in early America. It pointed out the bitter controversies that raged in England over the Book of Common Prayer which was created under governmental direction. Religious groups fought fiercely to gain the favor of the reigning monarch to revise the Book of Common Prayer in accord with their particular viewpoints.
The Court said that the founders of America and the writers of the Constitution had these events fresh in their minds when they added the first amendment. "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," the opinion said.
Two purposes of the establishment clause of the first amendment were explained by the Court. The first was "a belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion." The second "rested upon an awareness of the historical fact that governmentally established religions and religious persecutions go hand in hand."
The Court said that one of the reasons that many people fled state-established religion and religious persecution in Europe was that they were "filled with the hope that they could find a place in which they could pray when they pleased to the God of their faith in the language they chose."
It is unfortunate, the Court pointed out, that many of these same people established rigid religious regulations when they arrived in America. It is this kind of religious coercion that the first amendment was designed to prevent. This is the import of this recent decision in the New York Prayer case.
The Court recalled the persecution by established religion such as endured by John Bunyan. The battle for religious liberty in Virginia led by the Baptists, Presbyterians, and others was reviewed by the Court. Roger Williams was