Pearl Urges Defeat of Public School Prayers

An urgent appeal to the House of Representatives to “defeat by an overwhelming vote” the proposed constitutional amendment that would permit state-sponsored prayers in public schools was issued today by the Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL). In a letter to House Speaker Carl Albert (D., Okla.), William Haddad, chairman of PEARL–a coalition of 31 civic, religious and educational groups–declared: “Such a vigorous rejection of this proposal would demonstrate to the American people that the House of Representatives is unwavering in its support of the guarantee of freedom contained in the Bill of Rights.”

The proposed prayer amendment was released from the House Judiciary Committee in late September by a discharge petition. It is expected to come to the floor for a vote next week. The proposed amendment states: “Nothing contained in this Constitution shall abridge the right of persons lawfully assembled, in any public building which is supported in whole or in part through expenditure of public funds, to participate in nondenominational prayer.”

The PEARL letter charged that the prayer amendment “reflects dissatisfaction with the decisions of the Supreme Court holding the First Amendment does not permit state-sponsored prayer in public schools. It is an effort to nullify the ruling of the highest court in our land outlawing such prayers as a violation of religious liberty and church-state separation.”

The PEARL statement added: “The amendment purports to permit only ‘nondenominational prayer.’ But what is nondenominational in the eyes of one sect is offensive to another.” “The proposed amendment would impose on government officials the responsibility of determining which prayers are denominational and which are not, thereby acting in the role of a censor.”

NEXT STORY