WASHINGTON (Jun. 18)
Congressional leaders today predicted that any efforts to override the Supreme Court ban on religious exercises in the public schools were doomed despite a rash of bitter statements by various lawmakers. Congress and the state legislatures could override the decision by enactment of an amendment to the Constitution but this prospect was termed unlikely.
Leaders privately predicted that heated statements and legislative proposals could be expected for several weeks, as occurred when the court’s school decision was announced last year, but nothing is expected to come from the outcry. Meanwhile school districts around the country begin reporting to Washington on steps to bring practices into compliance with the new decision.
On the whole, Christian religious reaction to the Supreme Court decision banning formal Bible reading and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools was mixed but, in balance, on the favorable side. Representatives of the “main stream of Protestant thinking, whose views are reflected in the National Council of Churches, hailed the court ruling. For the most part Roman Catholics, viewed the ruling with alarm, however, and conservative Protestants, members of small fundamentalist bodies or minority groups in the large denominations, deplored it.
Representative Richard L. Roudebush, Republican of Indiana, said today he planned to submit a Constitutional amendment to permit Bible-reading and prayers in the schools. “Congress must act if our Christian heritage is to be preserved for future generations,” said Mr. Roudebush, a member of the Christian Church.
Senator Jacob K. Javits, Republican of New York, said such an amendment would be “so serious in its implications to religious freedom that I do not feel we should jump into it. These decisions, should emphasize and accelerate the need and opportunity for prayers in the home and houses of worship.”
Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court today directed the Florida State Supreme Court to re-examine a case involving religious practices in public schools in light of yesterday’s decision outlawing religious practices in education. The issue dealt with a Florida religious census to determine the faith of students and their parents, a religious test for teachers, baccalaureate programs, compulsory Bible reading, and other points. Lawsuits to test the state religious role in education were instituted by Miami Jews, agnostics, and Unitarians.
Jewish organizations have noted another Supreme Court decision this week on a religious issue in which the Court voted 7 to 2 that South Carolina cannot deny unemployment benefits to a woman who was fired for refusing to work on Saturday. The woman was a Seventh Day Adventist who regarded Saturday as her Sabbath as Jews do. Justices Harlan and White were the two dissenters.