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Bishop Sheen Favors Prayers in Public Schools at Congressional Hearing

May 1, 1964
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Rev. Fulton Sheen, Auxiliary Catholic Bishop of New York, told the House Judiciary Committee here today that he is not supporting any specific amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the issue of returning prayers and Bible-reading to the public schools. But, he said, he is interested in securing “an” amendment.

Father Sheen was one of the committee’s principal witnesses today as the group continued hearings opened a week ago on specific constitutional amendment proposals which would break down the Supreme Court’s ban on prayers and Bible-reading in public schools. He agreed with the Committee that Congress should act “cautiously” on this issue.

At one point, under questioning by members of the committee, he said he was not sure that any Constitutional amendment was needed on the issue. After the hearing, he told newsmen that it might be sufficient if Congress were simply to pass a law permitting school prayers. He also conceded that a proposed amendment introduced in the House of Representatives might be a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Another of today’s witnesses, Leo Pfeffer, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, appearing as an expert on State-Church relations, warned the committee that many of the arguments for a Constitutional amendment on prayers and Bible-reading are employing “myths” and “fictions” which he labeled “false.”

Some of the “fictions,” he said, were that public school Bible-reading and prayer recitations have been going on for 150 years without objection; that “there is only one Bible and all prayers are addressed to the same God”; that, if a child can be excused from participation in the religious exercises, there can be no valid objection to the practice; that today only “atheists and secularists” oppose the proposal for a Constitutional amendment; and that the Supreme Court has forbidden the mention of God or the Bible or religion in the public schools.” All these arguments, he said, are untrue.

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