WASHINGTON (Aug. 10)
Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois said today that prayer in public schools is a “civil right” and indicated that he might act for legislation based on that premise when the Senate considers the Administration’s Civil Rights Bill.
Sen. Dirksen, sponsor of a proposed Constitutional amendment to nullify the Supreme Court’s ruling outlawing public school prayers, belittled clergymen, including rabbis, who testified against his amendment. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments today terminated hearings. It was revealed by Sen. Dirksen that he is planning to offer a school prayer measure in the guise of a “civil right” as a substitute for the controversial open-housing section of the Civil Rights Bill.
His original amendment came under heavy fire from most clergymen who testified before the Subcommittee hearings. He reiterated his determination to force a vote in one way or another. Forty-seven other Senators have endorsed the Dirksen amendment. Adoption of the Constitutional change requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate and House and ratification by three-fourths of the states of the Union. If adopted, the measure would represent the first change in the Bill of Rights in American history.