New York State to Prohibit Reading of Any Prayer in Public Schools

The chief legal authority of the New York State Education Department ruled unconstitutional yesterday the reading aloud of any prayers in public schools in the state.

Speaking at the annual meeting here of the State Council of City and Village School Superintendents, Dr. Charles A. Brind, counsel to the department, said schools could not allow readings from the Bible when these were intended for spiritual–as against objective instructional–purposes. If a teacher allowed a pupil to recite a prayer aloud, he warned, the prayer automatically would be an official one.

He said this interpretation of the United States Supreme Court ruling of June 20 which barred a New York State Regents prayer from use in public schools, stemmed from the fact that teachers as employees of local boards of education were agents of the state.

He pointed out that there was no important legal difference between a prayer proposed by the state–as the Regents Prayer was done–and one approved by a school board or by a member of its staff.

Dr. Brind added that his comments were based on a ruling on August 29 by Dr. James E. Allen, State Commissioner of Education. Dr. Allen then ruled against the Hicksville, L.I. school board which wanted pupils to recite as a prayer a stanza of the Star Spangled Banner. The Education Commissioner declared that regardless of the source, such school board action made the prayer an official one and therefore unconstitutional.

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