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Supreme Court Justice Defends Ban on Prayers in Public Schools

Tom C. Clark, the Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who voted with the 6-1 majority of the high tribunal last June in favor of outlawing the recitation of officially prescribed prayers in public schools, was on record here today as asserting that, for children, “private prayer in the home” is much more effective than public prayers.

Justice Clark, who is a trustee of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, and one of the leading laymen of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, spoke at the annual laymen’s breakfast of the Larchmont Avenue Presbyterian Church here.

America’s founding fathers, he declared, believed in prayer, but their belief was centered on prayer at home. “There has been quite a crusade of late for prayer by our children,” he said, “but I have not heard one word said in support of prayers by them at home. I submit that private prayer in the home would be much more effective.”

The jurist noted that the Supreme Court had upheld in 1943, the Constitutional provision guaranteeing individual freedoms in the Bill of Rights, holding that “the Government shall take no part respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“‘No’ to me means ‘No,'” he insisted. “This is all the Court decided. Questions of official recognition of a Divine Being or the validity of the inscription on silver or American currency of ‘In God We Trust’ or public acknowledgment of the fact that the United States is a religious nation–were not involved nor were they passed upon in this decision.”

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