HARRISBURG, Penna. (Sep. 3)
Public school officials in Pennsylvania were warned today against conducting group Bible reading or prayers in a sweeping ruling from Attorney General Walter E. Alessandroni.
The Attorney General held that devotional services were banned in schools “whether or not they were required or permitted by school boards, administrators or teachers, and whether or not the pupils engaged in the practices voluntarily, or even with the express written consent of their parents.”
The ruling was prompted by the United States Supreme Court decision last June 17 outlawing such devotional practices in the American public school system. Noting that the Supreme Court decision did not apply to the study of the Bible in public schools as literature or to religion as a subject of the school curriculum, the Attorney General also held that the daily recitation of the pledge of allegiance, a period of silent meditation, messages and speeches of great Americans and material from “other documents of our heritage” were permitted.
He also ruled that there was no official restraint on “unorganized, private, personal prayer, or Bible-reading by pupils during free moments of the day, which are not a part of the school program and do not interfere with the school schedule.”