Leading New York Newspapers Support Supreme Court’s Decision

Strong editorial support for the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic and controversial ban on prayer in the public schools was expressed today by such leading newspapers as the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune.

Declaring that “prayer is personal,” the Times editorial said: “Nothing could be more divisive in this country than to mingle religion and government in the sensitive setting of public schools, and under the circumstances regarded by minorities as coercive. Our history counsels against that course, and the Supreme Court has wisely turned us from it.”

The Herald-Tribune editorial stated: “The court ruled, 6 to 1, that recital of the prayer was in nonconformity with the intent of the Founding Fathers. No matter how much we minimize the possibility that such a prayer could lead to a state religion–Justice Stewart, the lone dissenter, argued his case with conviction–it is difficult to see how the court, once having agreed to consider the case, could have arrived at any other conclusion.”

The New York Post declared that the Supreme Court did not, “as some foolish men are saying, vote to ‘abolish God.’ It voted to affirm the proposition that prayer in a free society is a private affair. It is. “

Two New York dailies criticized the decision. The Journal American said that “the Hearst newspapers believe” the decision “is a misinterpretation of the Constitution.” The World-Telegram and Sun argued that the principle upheld by the court was “the right to take religion or eschew it altogether but in so ruling, the Supreme Court has opened itself to an endless stream of questions and challenges.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, noting that several related suits were moving through lower courts en route to the Supreme Court, predicted today that there would be a drive in all parts of the country against religious practices in the public schools. The organization said the goal of the campaign would be to eliminate Christmas and Chanukah observances, Easter programs, recitation of the Lord’s prayer and baccalaureate services. Suits involving many of these practices are at one stage or another in state and federal lower courts.

The ACLU said it planned to ask its 33 affiliates throughout the United States to measure local public school practices against the Supreme Court decision.

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