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Council of Churches States View on Religion in Public Schools

March 19, 1962
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The National capital area Council of Churches said today that public schools should not require teachers or students to participate in devotional Bible reading or mass prayer recitations. Similarly, observance of religious holidays in public schools, said the Council, “should have clear educational purposes and should not distract from the religious meaning which some associate with that holiday.”

The Council positions were contained in a statement prepared by a Special Committee on Religion in the Public Schools which was named last January to study the issue of religion in public schools following an appeal from the Washington Jewish Community Council to school boards in the Washington area to discontinue all religious observances in public schools.

The Church Council said that while “it is not the function of the public school to be a church or synagogue, or attempt to do the work of the church or synagogue,” it endorsed the idea that “objective treatment of religious facts as an integral part of the courses and curricula” would be acceptable. On the subject of Christmas observance in schools, long a bone of contention within the Jewish community, the Council saw no objection so long as the cultural aspects of the holiday were stressed with no reference to the religious overtones of Christmas.

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