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Cardinal Spellman Assails Supreme Court Decision on School Prayer

June 27, 1962 - Cardinal Spellman (pictured with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy earlier this month) renewed his attack today on the Supreme Court’s decision Monday banning official prayers in New York State’s public schools. The Roman Catholic prelate called the ruling a “tragic misreading of the prayerfully weighed words of our founding fathers.” Speaking in Buffalo, where he attended the golden jubilee mass of Bishop Joseph A. Burke of the Diocese of Buffalo, Cardinal Spellman said: “If that simple prayer can be interpreted as violating the separation of church and state, then I can only pray: ‘God save the United States,’ for America has surely traveled far from the ideals of her founding fathers when the prayerful mention of God’s holy name in a public school breaks the law of this blessed land.” The Supreme Court had ruled that a nondenominational prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits any laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” While some rabbis have expressed approval of the ban, others have taken different positions. Rabbi Jacob Handler of Manchester, N.H., said he did not think the prayer violated the Constitution. He added that it “encouraged young people to think in the way of Godliness.” In Montgomery, Ala., the Legislature shouted its approval of a resolution denouncing the decision as a “diabolical” departure from the American way of life. It called for a Constitutional amendment to override the decision.

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