Conference of Governors Backs Prayers in Schools; Petition Congress
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Conference of Governors Backs Prayers in Schools; Petition Congress

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With only Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York abstaining, the governors of the other 49 states voted yesterday at their annual conference in Herehey Pa., to petition Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment that would invalidate the Supreme Court’s ruling against official prayers in public schools.

The resolution adopted by the governors urged “the Congress of the United States to propose an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that will make clear and beyond challenge the acknowledgment of our nation and people of their faith in God, and permit them the free and voluntary participation in prayer in our public schools.”

The chairman of the Governors Conference announced after the measure had been passed that adoption was “unanimous.” However, Gov. Rockefeller immediately arose to announce he had abstained. Later, the New York State chief executive said:

“The freedom of every person to worship or not to worship, as his conscience dictates, is fundamental to American society. Until the whole question can be considered in terms of the fundamental precept of freedom of religion, which was the basis of the constitutional provision upon which the Supreme Court based its opinion, I shall abstain from the endorsement of any hasty action by the Governors relating to amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Any such proposal should certainly have the fullest possible study and discussion before the Governors offer an opinion.”

In New Jersey, that state’s Governor, Richard J. Hughes, stated that he would fight efforts to invalidate New Jersey laws dealing with school prayers. In 1950, the New Jersey State Supreme Court had upheld laws making it mandatory to teach in the public schools five verses from the Old Testament. Another law permits recital of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools.

In Tuckahoc, N. Y., Mayor Milton A. Gibbons reported he had received 3, 500 signatures to a petition that would ask President Kennedy and Congress to impeach the six U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted against prayers in public schools. The petition would also ask Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment which would specifically permit prayers in the schools. Mayor Gibbons, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic, said he would seek circulation of the petition in other states and localities around the country.


In Washington, Label A.Katz, national president of B’nai B’rith, addressing the 86th regional convention of B’nai B’rith, deplored “the abusive nature” of criticism directed against the Supreme Court, calling such attacks “a disturbing demonstration of irreligious behavior in the name of religion.” He condemned all “provocative slanders” directed against the Court by public officials.

In Philadelphia, Rabbi Morris Pickholz, president of the Board of Rabbis, issued a statement on behalf of the Board, “welcoming” the Supreme Court’s decision. “The Court,” he said, speaking for the entire Board, “has done the country and religious liberty a great service in summoning us back to first principles–namely, that in the American system, religious education is not the province of Government.”

A number of leading Protestant clergymen in this city, preaching their first set sermons since the Supreme Court handed down its prayer ruling, took a favorable view of the High Tribunal’s decision. Such a stand was taken, among others, by the Reverend John M. Krumm, Columbia University chaplain; and by the Rev. Dr. Lawrence L. Durgin, of the Broadway Congregational Church, who declared the court’s ruling “deserves general applause.” However, other Protestants, as well as Catholic clergymen, criticized the High Court’s stand.

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