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N.j. Education Board Plans Court Action to Halt School Prayer Readings

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The New Jersey State Board of Education voted yesterday to take “such legal action as is necessary” to halt the reading of prayers in public high schools. The decision was directed specifically at the high school in Netcong, N.J. at which prayers taken from the Congressional Record have been read daily before the start of classes since the school year began. A similar religious exercise was started yesterday at Wellington High School in Wellington, N.J., and Sayreville. in Middlesex County, inaugurated a two-minute period of silent prayer in junior and senior high schools last September.

Last week State Attorney General Arthur J. Sills ruled that the Netcong practice of reading prayers from the Congressional Record was unconstitutional. He said, “The use of the Congressional Record as source material for religious readings cannot be employed to circumvent the Supreme Court’s pronouncements banning school prayer.” But the Netcong Board of Education voted 7-1 yesterday to ignore the State Attorney and called on School Superintendent Joseph Stracco “to continue school prayer.” The board said that until the constitutionality of its program is ruled to be in violation of “the law of the land” it will continue the practice.

The Wallington Board of Education, approved the prayer reading three weeks ago and said it would be started the first week in December. Officially, attendance at the prayer reading periods at Netcong and Wallington and the meditation period at Sayreville is voluntary.

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