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Although almost 175 years elapsed after the adoption of the first amendment before the Court felt compelled to outlaw prayer in public schools, we may be sure that other decisions in this area will not be long in coming. Already two additional cases involving prayer and religion in the public schools are pending in the Supreme Court, and I am advised that a third is on its way.
One of these is a case from the Maryland Court of Appeals which held, in a split decision, by a 4-to-3 majority, that the constitutional rights of a student and his mother were not violated by the opening exercises in Baltimore public schools which involved the reading of the Bible and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. As in the New York case, participation was noncompulsory.
Another case now in the Supreme Court comes from a U.S. district court in Pennsylvania. In this case, I point out an opposite conclusion was reached. The court there held that a Pennsylvania law requiring Bible reading in public schools violated the first amendment, notwithstanding that the statute provided that a child, upon request, should be excused from participating.
Another case which I am advised will ultimately reach the Supreme Court is a decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Florida. In this case, the complaint was made of the reading of the Bible in the public schools, distribution of sectarian literature to schoolchildren, the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, and other religious activities. a unanimous opinion written by former Gov. Millard Caldwell, the court held that these activities were not in violation of the 1st or the 14th amendment to the Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court itself said, as recently as 1951 (Zorach v. Clausen), that "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” That quotation and that thought, Mr. Chairman, is the key to this whole problem, to this whole matter. However, if future decisions are consistent with the rationale of the Engel case, I am convinced that the holding will sooner or later be extended so as to forbid and prohibit many of our traditional, respected and timehonored practices. Among these which will almost certainly fall within the Court's ban are the use of the Lord's Prayer and the reading of the Bible in the public schools. I do not see how in the world, with any degree of consistency, the Court could possibly avoid ban ning or outlawing the Lord's Prayer and the reading of the Bible.
Senator Hart. If I may, you say that you can see no basis for permitting or prohibiting?
Senator STENNIS. If the Court is going to follow its present logic and is to be consistent with their recent holding, I see no escape from their banning and outlawing the reading of the Bible or the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Certainly, they are closer to denominationalism or to the establishment of a religion than is this simple prayer from New York. In the same category, I would classify, under the logic and the reasoning of the Court, the opening of sessions of the Senate and the House of Representatives with prayer by the Chaplains; the opening of State legislatures and city councils with prayer; the administration of oaths to witnesses which include the use of the Bible or the phrase "so help me God”; the opening of sessions of court with the traditional cry; and the recital of prayers in public schools by the children as a group or as individuals if the prayer is led or suggested by the teacher, who, of course, is an official representative of the State.
In every public school, however small the group in the room, the teacher there is the embodiment for that date of the State and is the direct agent and representative of the State. If she takes any part or any position as to the saying of a prayer, or as to what prayer should be said, or any exercise of that kind, it would fall under the ban and the prohibition of the present holding of the Court. As I see it, you would have to send them out beyond the playground, even to engage in any religious exercise of that kind.
İndeed Justice Douglas has already declared in his concurring opinion that it was his view that the use of the traditional
opening of the Supreme Court, the practice of opening the sessions of the Congress with prayer, and many other religious exercises are violative of the first amendment.
If the Court should extend its decision only slightly, many other religious activities may be banned by future decisions. Among these are: compulsory chapel services in military academies, religious services in Federal prisons and hospitals, the issuance of religious proclamations by the President, payment of GI bill educational benefits to church-affiliated schools; Federal aid for school lunches and buses in parochial schools; governmental aid to church-affiliated hospitals; tax exemptions for religious organizations; the use of chaplains in the Armed Forces; the requirement that the President, Members of Congress, and the Justice of the Supreme Court subscribe to an oath in which the aid of the Deity is invoked, the inscribing of the words “in
the currency of the Nation, the singing of our national anthem which proclaims our trust in God; and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance which contains the words, "one Nation under God."
Mr. Chairman, while these last items which I have enumerated do not necessarily come within the present ban of the Supreme Court, I emphasize that with the slightest extension of the holding, they will be banned.
Senator HRUSKA. Will you yield?
Senator HRUSKA. I call the Senator's attention to the footnote in the decision of the majority of the Court, which is found on page 14 of the slip opinion. Does not that footnote in part negate some of the matters you have just read?
Senator STENNIS. In part, but far from conclusively. I say here, with emphasis, that if the Court extends its decision or its logic, many of these religious activities may be banned by future decisions. This applies to the last group of activities which I enumerated. The first group that I cited, in my opinion, will certainly be banned under the logic of the present Supreme Court decision. That is the distinction I make.
Senator HRUSKA. The only reason I called the footnote to the attention of the Senator is that there has been so much comment on this point and, unfortunately, the early press releases omitted the reference entirely. Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask consent, at this point, in order that the record will read more intelligently, that we set out the substance of that footnote.
It reads in part: 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 ofticially espoused anthems which include the composer's profession of faith in a Supreme Being, or with the fact that there are many manifestations in our public life of belief in God.
Senator Johnston. For your information, the whole Supreme Court opinion has been made a part of the record, so that you can just call attention to it.
Senator HRUSKA. Very well.
Senator STENNIS. Somewhere the Court referred to some of the matters I have mentioned as being mere ceremonies. It created a classification of activities that is rather odd, and it seems to me that they could not be logically classified in this manner. When you outlaw the simple prayer from New York, I think you clearly outlaw the Lord's Prayer, the reading of the Bible, and other activities that call on the Deity. I point out in my statement that with the slightest extension of this present decision these others could fall under the ban. Justice Douglas makes all of them fall under the ban in his concurring opinion, but for another reason. I was not at the conference of the Judges, none of us were, but Justice Douglas was, and he is, at least, speaking for himself. I do not know how much sentiment supporting Justice Douglas was expressed there, but we are up against the practical proposition that the Court has already gone this far and the logic of it is that it will go the next step, and then with a slight extension it could go to these further extremes. I do not think there is any doubt that we have a very practical problem here.
These are some of the problems or potential problems created by the recent decision. I submit that this decision has gone beyond the intent and purpose of the framers of the first amendment. The first amendment was written to prevent governmental control of religion, the establishment of a state church, and the abuses and persecution in the name of religion with governmental sanction which were then prevalent. The amendment was not written to destroy religion and it was never intended that the state and religion should be entirely alien to one another-hostile, suspicious, unfriendly, and wholly isolated. The amendment was designed to do exactly what the language says, which is to prohibit the Congress from making a "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Certainly it cannot be seriously contended that the simple, nondenomination and noncompulsory prayer involved in the Engel case resulted either in the establishment of a religion or prohibited the free exercise thereof.
What is to be done then? What course should we follow? What is to be done as a practical matter?
From all the corners of the country, there has been a swelling chorus of protest by religiously inclined people over the action of the Court in denying public schoolchildren the spiritual solace of the simple prayer involved in the Engel case. In my opinion, it is naive to hope that the Court will reverse itself, even though it will shortly have the opportunity to do so in the cases which I have already mentioned. We must accept the fact that, as far as the Court is concerned, the law
is settled and established. Since a constitutional question is involved, the only action which can be taken to correct the wrong which the Court has perpetrated is the adoption of a constitutional amendment.
In view of the fact that I had to be away that day. Senator Robertson on June 26 introduced Senate Joint Resolution 204 on my behalf. I caused the introduction of Senate Joint Resolution 204 because of my conviction that the Supreme Court decision struck down some of our most cherished traditionsbecause I believe that it ignores the fact that we are and have been a religious and spiritual people. I reintroduced it in identical form as Senate Joint Resolution 206 a few days later for the purpose of giving other Senators an opportunity to join with me in its introduction, and Senator Sparkman, Senator Hill, and Senator Byrd of West Virginia did so. I believed then, as I believe now, that the people of the United States should at least have the opportunity of expressing their will upon this all-important question.
In proposing this constitutional amendment it was not my purpose to bring about any drastic change in our way of life or to introduce any new or novel political or social theory. I merely desired to insure that, regardless of the Court's decision, those accepted religious practices and traditions which have prevailed in this country since its founding are permitted to continue.
This amendment, or one like it, would merely continue the practices that have been permitted in the past.
For 173 years we have been completely successful in maintaining the separation of church and state. At the same time, as we have continued our dedication to the spiritual heritage of the Nation, we have grown in moral and material strength and wealth. We have never established church by state action and do not now propose to do so. At the same time, however, we have throughout the years steadily and consistently encouraged religious practices on the part of our people, including the reading of the Bible and the recital of nondenominational prayers in our public schools.
Throughout our history as a country we have remained a religious people and have rejoiced in our spiritual heritage. In part this is due to the spiritual training which has been afforded in our schools.
While the existence of religion does not of itself insure democracy, I am convinced that a true and great democracy is impossible unless there is belief in the existence of a Supreme Being and faith in a power greater than mere men. This is particularly true in these trying times when we face a growing challenge from atheistic communism and other materialistic and antireligious philosophies. More than ever before in our history we need the support and comfort and training of moral and spiritual values, in our homes, in our schools, and in our daily lives.
My proposed amendment is directed specifically toward permitting the recital of nondenominational and noncompulsory prayers in the public schools. Perhaps in this respect it is too limited and should be expanded to protect and preserve the entire range of nondenominational religious and spiritual practices and activities which I have already discussed and which clearly fall far short of the establishment of a religion or the prevention of the free exercise thereof. Such an amendment will have to be carefully drawn so as to protect religious freedom, to respect the rights of both majorities and minorities and to insure that no sectarian activities are permitted in the public schools or elsewhere in governmental activities.
As I have said, it is my purpose to insure that the practices which we have followed throughout our Nation's history are permitted to continue and that our traditional concept of freedom of religion shall not be twisted into a quarantine against religion. To accomplish this I believe that we should adopt a constitutional amendment which is worded as clearly and as simply as is possible. I will be glad to work with the committee to this end.
I certainly do not claim that this amendment is the last word. It doubtless could be extended to include other matters we have mentioned here, but out of deference to the other witnesses, I am going to conclude with this thought:
Should this decision and those certain to follow, if consistency prevails, be allowed to stand, then something great and good will have vanished from American life. A primary channel for the simple guidance and teaching of our youth in moral and spiritual values will have been blocked.
Thus, generations to come will be deprived of much of our rich tradition and heritage which go to sustain our freedom as well as our spiritual strength.
Thus, we will move away from the spiritual and toward the material. We must not let this happen.
I am reminded of a story I heard of a drunken soldier in Europe after World War I. _On a sightseeing trip he walked in front of an old, old church. They had a small light burning in a little tower at the front. He asked how long this light had been burning. Someone, perhaps the guide, told him 350 years. He blew the light out and said, "That is too long."
I feel that the implication of this unfortunate decision is that we will have blown out the light by which we have been finding our way.
Senator JOHNSTON. Are there any questions?
Senator HART. I think in fairness I should make this comment. I agree with you, that whatever else the decision may have done, it
, shows the relationship between religion and public life in this country needs a thorough reexamination. I think as a nation we appear to be pretty well muddled about the meaning of this in our contemporary society, but I think the Engel decision was completely predictable and is consistent with a long line of Federal and State decisions.
I know this runs counter to your presentation, and, I was reminded of what could be described as a personal situation. You mentioned the reading of the Bible and the Lord's Prayer as something that in most American communities, I take it in the public schools, has always been thought of to be fine.
Senator STENNIS. Fine?
Senator Hart. And that nobody could suggest that this might not be what this society wanted nor the Constitution permitted.
If the Bible that is read, and the Lord's Prayer that is recited, were not the Bible and the Lord's Prayer prayers of my children, although I am a Christian--does it not really do damage to my children to be exposed to that? How do I explain to them this inconsistency? You see, I am a Catholic; our Bible and our Lord's Prayer differ from the Protestant versions.