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Supreme Court Ban on School Prayer Draws Criticism

June 26, 1962 - The Supreme Court’s decision banning an official prayer in New York public schools drew vehement criticism in Congress today. In both houses, bills were introduced to amend the Constitution to overrule the decision. The amendments would permit the reading of prayers or verses from the Bible in public schools. The ruling yesterday did not concern reading from the Bible — a question at issue in a case now on the way to the Supreme Court. But many Congressmen indicated concern about the import of the decision for religious activities unconnected with prayer. Democrats and Republicans took the floor to denounce the court. Several questioned the justices’ honesty and patriotism. Representative Frank J. Becker, Republican of N.Y., called the decision “the most tragic in the history of the United States.” Representative John Bell Williams, Mississippi Democrat, said it was part of “a deliberate and carefully planned conspiracy to substitute materialism for spiritual values.” Former President Herbert Hoover was quoted as saying: “This interpretation of the Constitution is a disintegration of one of the most sacred of American heritages. The Congress should at once submit an amendment to the Constitution which establishes the right to religious devotion in all governmental agencies — national, state, or local.” An editorial in the Baltimore Sun stated: “Does this mean that there is to be no more governmentally sponsored religious activity? No more Army chaplains? No prayers to open Congress and the Supreme Court itself? No more Thanksgiving proclamations by public officials? No singing of the third stanza of the national anthem in public structures? Or, for that matter, that we are to have new coinage inscribed ‘in blank we trust?’”

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