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Survey Finds Reaction to Lord’s Prayer Ban in Schools ‘mostly Calm’

July 22, 1963
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American reactions to last month’s Supreme Court decision prohibiting Bible-reading or recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools have been “mostly calm,” a survey of public expressions in the first four weeks following the High Court’s ruling, disclosed today.

The survey was conducted by Arnold Forster, general counsel of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and its results were announced today by Core Schary, ADL president. The public expressions of the latest Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Schary stressed, were “considerably more moderate” and in “marked contrast to the angry outbursts” voiced in the summer of. 1962, when the same court had declared unconstitutional the New York State Regents prayer in public schools.

Of 185 newspaper editorials on the issue published this year in 169 newspapers in 35 states and the District of Columbia, the survey found 61 percent supported the Supreme Court’s decision of this year. In the northeast section of the country, embracing nine states, plus the District of Columbia, 39 of 61 newspapers supported the High Tribunal’s ruling. It was noted that the margin of almost two to one “was a significant change from 1962, when the papers were evenly divided.”

Southern newspapers were evenly divided on the issue this year, the same as in 1962. In the seven Midwest states, the “greatest shift” was noted; there, 18 of 25 newspapers supported this year’s ruling, whereas last year’s decision was opposed by a ratio of two to one. In six Western states, this year, 23 newspapers out of 36, a ratio of two to one, favored the Supreme Court’s attitude.

Opinion among Catholic leaders was found by the survey to be “more divided” than last year. As for Protestant leaders, most were found reflecting a statement issued by the National Churches, which had declared: “teaching for religious commitment is a responsibility of the home and the community of faith — such as church or synagogue — rather than the public schools,”

On the Roman Catholic side, three cardinals opposed the Supreme Court ruling, but one cardinal refused to comment, while another Joined Protestant ministers and the local rabbinical association in pledging cooperation and respect for the decision as “the law of the land. “

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