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National Council of Churches Opposes Religion in Public Schools

Teachers in American public schools who are Christian were urged today in a major study issued by the National Council of Churches, to avoid “temptations to make of the school a church and of the classroom an evangelistic hall. “

The recommendation was contained in a study document on the relation of religion to public education which was authorized for publication by the Division of Christian Education of the NCC, the central agency for American Protestant church groups, with a membership of 39, 000, 000 congregants. The division is holding its annual meeting here.

The basic theme of the 30-page document is that “the people of the United States choose to keep the churches as institutions free from the control of the State, and the State frae from the control of the churches. ” It said that “public school personnel should not aid in, or permit, the distribution of religious literature upon school property for the advantage of any sect or denomination. ” It stressed that “sectarian literature is out of place in the public school, except for the purposes of general education. “

The statement urged “full compliance” with court decisions against distribution of Bibles in public schools, noting that “the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the distribution of a single translation of the Bible to children is an ‘establishment of religion’ prohibited by law.”

The NCC document gave approval to temporary use of church buildings for public school instruction on the understanding that public schools should not enter into long-term arrangements for church facilities and that “public school buildings and facilities should be available at a fair rental to churches during an emergency” and on the same terms on which they area available to other non-profit groups in the community.

The statement was prepared under the direction of the Committee on Religion and Public Education of the NCC which said that it was not an official policy statement of the National Council, or an official position of any of the denominations cooperating in the work of the Division. The Division, in approving the statement, urged publication so that all interested groups could study it for the next three years and then report their reactions.

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