Leading Legal Experts Oppose Moves to Permit School Prayers

A joint statement by 132 deans and professors of law and political scientists, supporting the Supreme Court June decision on public school prayer, and expressing “strong opposition to any tampering with the Bill of Rights” was submitted here today to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee is considering proposals to amend the First Amendment to legalize prayers and other religious practices in public schools.

The statement asserted that the Supreme Court decision, holding that recitation of the Regents Prayer in New York State public schools was unconstitutional was “required” not only by prior decisions interpreting the First Amendment “but by the cause of religious freedom and the welfare of all Americans as well.”

The legal experts warned that “the intrusion of religion through devotional practices in the public school system both threatens the separation of church and state, and challenges the traditional integrity of public schools.” The statement added that, if such intrusion was permitted, it would “greatly endanger the institutions which have preserved religious and political freedom in the United States, and which have prevented religious warfare in this nation.”

The signers represented 42 American colleges and universities, including deans of six law schools and a number of the country’s outstanding experts on constitutional law.

The statement also assailed support by state authorities for such prayers as “truly hurtful to religion” because “it is unreal to expect that an appreciation of religious values can be communicated to our children by the rote recitation of formalized prayer in public school classes.”

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