Supreme Court to Clarify Its Stand on Prayers in Public Schools
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Supreme Court to Clarify Its Stand on Prayers in Public Schools

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Clarification of the Supreme Court’s stand on the public school prayer issue is expected in the wake of the court’s agreement yesterday to take a further look at religious practices in public education. The court announced that it will hear arguments, probably later this year, on Maryland’s practice of opening the school day with prayers and on the Pennsylvania schools’ Bible reading system.

The ultimate decision by the court may settle the bitter debate over what the court meant last June when it held unconstitutional a New York regulation promulgating a specific prayer for classroom use each day. Since the Court’s ruling, school boards and educators throughout the country have sought clarification of what religious practices in the schools are unconstitutional. Observers said the Maryland and Pennsylvania cases may help clear the atmosphere.

The practice in Maryland was held constitutional by the Maryland Court of Appeals by a vote of 4 to 3 last April. But a three-judge Federal court decided unanimously in February that the Pennsylvania Bible-reading practice was unconstitutional.

The Maryland regulation required that the school day should open with a reading, without comment, of a chapter in the Bible and or the use of the Lord’s Prayer. The Pennsylvania law required reading of ten verses from the Bible, without comment, at the opening of each school day. In both states, after protests, the law was revised to permit children to be excused from participation at the written request of their parents.


The U. S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to review an Oregon Supreme Court ruling against state grants of textbooks to parochial schools, a ruling based on the Oregon State Constitution. The Oregon Supreme Court ban was taken to the U. S. Supreme Court on the argument that the ruling denied children in parochial schools and their families equal protection of the law and the right to free exercise of their religion.

Notice was taken here today of an article just published by the Harvard Educational Review attacking as unconstitutional the idea of Federal loans supporting science, mathematics, and foreign language study in such parochial schools as Catholic academies or Jewish Day Schools. Despite assumptions that such loans aid “secular” subjects, the Harvard educational review said “sectarian material has been integrated into the teaching of sciences, mathematics, and languages in parochial schools.”

A detailed attack was made on the National Defense Education Act section which authorizes loans to parochial schools for equipment connected with these subjects. It was charged that into “undeniably scientific” subjects, “parochial schools inject a considerable amount of religious interpretation and even some sectarian doctrine.

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