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What is to be done then? What course should we follow? What is to be done as a practical matter?
From all the corners of the country there has ben a swelling chorus of protest by religiously inclined people over the action of the Court in denying public school children the spiritual solace of a simple prayer. In my opinion, it is naive to hope that the Court will reverse itself. We must accept the fact that, as far as the Court is concerned, the law is settled and established. Since a constitutional question is involved, the only action which can be taken to correct the wrong which the Court has perpetrated is the adoption of a constitutional amendment.
Immediately after the Engel decision, I introduced S.J. Res. 204 in 1962. I have co-sponsored other resolutions since that time. In proposing these constitutional amendments it has not been my purpose to bring about any drastic change in our way of life or to introduce any new or novel political or social theory. I merely desire to insure that, regardless of the Court's decisions, those accepted religious practices and traditions which have prevailed in this country since its founding are permitted to continue.
For 190 years we have been completely successful in maintaining the separation of church and state. At the same time, as we have continued our dedication to the spiritual heritage of the Nation, we have grown in moral and material strength and wealth. We have never established a church by state action and do not now propose to do so. At the same time, however, we have throughout the years steadily and consistently encouraged religious practices on the part of our people, including the reading of the Bible and the recital of nondenominational prayers in our public schools.
Throughout our history as a country we have remained a religious people and have rejoiced in our spirtual heritage. In part this is due to the spiritual training which has been afforded in our schools.
While the existence of religion does not of itself insure democracy, I am convinced that a true and great democracy is impossible unless there is belief in the existence of a Supreme Being and faith in a power greater than mere men. This is particularly true in these trying times when we face a growing challenge from atheistic communism and other antireligious philosophies. More than ever before in our history we need the support and comfort and training of moral and spiritual values, in our homes, in our schools, and in our daily lives.
As I have said, it is my purpose to insure that the practices which we have followed throughout our Nation's history are permitted to continue and that om traditional concept of freedom of religion shall not be twisted into a quarantin against religion.
Should these decisions and those certain to follow, if consistency prevails, be allowed to stand, then something great and good will have vanished from Ameri can life. A primary channel for the simply guidance and teaching of our youth in moral and spiritual values will have been blocked. Thus, generations to com will be deprived of much of our rich tradition and heritage which go to sustai our freedom as well as our spiritual strength.
Senator BAYH. We have some airplane schedule problems, so we ar going to take Rev. Herschel Halbert of the Protestant Episcopa Church, and then Mr. McNeill will be second in the batter's box.
So, Reverend Halbert, if you could let us hear from you this morning we would be very grateful.
STATEMENT OF REV. HERSCHEL HALBERT, STAFF OFFICER, EXECUTIVE COUNCIL, EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Reverend HALBERT. Good morning.
Mr. Chairman, I am Herschel Halbert, a staff officer of the executiv council of the Episcopal Church assigned to matters which deal wit church and state relations. I have been commissioned by the council chief executive officer, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Churc the Right Reverend John E. Hines, D.D., to present to this disti guished Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, test
mony for the Episcopal Church on Senate Joint Resolution 148, commonly called the Dirksen amendment.
We appreciate the invitation of the chairman and members of this committee to appear to present the statements and action of the Episcopal Church on the issue of prayer in the public schools. We value the close scrutiny and attention you are giving the issue before making your recommendations. Bishop Hines has asked me to convey to you his regret that he could not be present in person due to an urgent commitment undertaken prior to the announcement of these hearings. He has authorized me to present testimony against the proposed amendment.
WHO SPEAKS FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Lest any statement of mine seem to claim authority it does not possess, may I be permitted a moment to clarify the authority by which I speak. At the last general convention of the Episcopal Church in 1964 an important action was taken to make clear with what authority one can speak for the Episcopal Church with a membership of 3,336,728 persons.
This action reaffirms that the Episcopal Church accepts as its authority the Bible, the creeds and, Mr. Chairman, here I add four words to the text, and speaks officially through the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and canons for the government of the Protestant Episcopal Church adopted by its general convention. It further emphasizes that only official bodies of the church speak for it. It identifies these bodies as follows:
First, the general convention, the democratically constituted bicameral plenary legislative body of the church which meets every 3 years, commits and speaks authoritatively for the church through its resolutions and other formal actions.
Second, the convention's house of bishops which meets annually similarly speaks authoritatively for the church. Third-and now I quote from that action:
In the interim of general convention, the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council are the responsible representatives of the church, granted authority to implement the statements and actions of general convention and of the House of Bishops. When, in the course of the fast-moving events of life today, it is not possible to await a meeting of general convention, it is the duty of the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council to speak God's word to his church and to his world.
The testimony I offer is based on actions of the presiding bishop and the executive council under the third-named authority just quoted.
PERTINENT EPISCOPAL CHURCH ACTIONS
In 1963 the Supreme Court, in the case of Abingdon School District V. Schempp (No. 142, October term, 1962); and concurrently Murray V. Curlett (No. 119) ruled that Bible reading and recitation of the Lord's Prayer were unconstitutional, when part of a religious exercise in public schools. The then presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Arthur Lichtenberger, D.D., issued the following statement:
The court makes it clear that it is not the task of public schools to inculcate religious beliefs or habits of worship. This is the task of our homes and churches
and synagogues. We are indeed a religious people, but our varied beliefs are embodied in institutions which are not governmental and are not dependent on majority votes.
It is now clear that public authorities are required to show neutrality toward all groups of believers and nonbelievers. In public schools members of religious minorities are not required to choose between participating in religious practices against their conscience and submitting to the handicap of expressing their dissent by conspicuous withdrawal. On this point the court seems unanimous, although Justice Stewart thought there should be clear proof that dissenters are handicapped.
We may be thankful that the Constitution does not permit the government to define and give preference to some general version of Christianity or the JudeoChristian religion.
The court does not rule out objective study of religion in public schools; indeed the court encourages such study. It forbids the state-sanctioned religious practices of corporate worship through prayer and devotional reading of the Bible. But the court does not forbid teaching of the place of religions in our culture and history and the importance of mutual respect among religious groups. With such teaching included, public school programs cannot be charged with teaching non-religious humanism and can introduce students to the full range of our cultural heritage.
That is the conclusion of Bishop Lichtenberger's statement in 1963. Then, in 1964 when hearings were held by the House Judiciary Committee on House Joint Resolution 693 (the Becker amendment) to amend the first amendment, the Episcopal Church was represented in person by the Right Reverend Brooke Mosley, D.D., S.T.D., bishop of Delaware, the Right Reverend William F. Creighton, D.D., bishop of Washington, Professor Wilber Katz, chairman of the Episcopal Church's National (now Executive) Council's Commission on ChurchState Relations, and other churchmen. A letter opposing the Becker amendment, signed by the aforementioned bishops and also the Right Reverend Thomas A. Fraser, D.D., now bishop of North Carolina, and the Right Reverend John E. Hines, D.D., then bishop of Texas and now presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, was addressed to the Honorable Emanuel Celler and entered in the record of the hearings. This letter opposing the Becker amendment stated:
We understand that the recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court relate to prayers which are part of official devotional exercises in public schools. We believe that these decisions are not hostile to religion and that it is no proper function of government to inculcate religious beliefs or habits of worship. We are advised that nothing in these decisions forbids the offering of prayers on public occasions such as inaugurations. We therefore believe that the proposed amendment should not be adopted.
The National (now Executive) Council of the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution on May 26-28, 1964, supporting the position of the presiding bishop and the spokesmen for the church at the House Judiciary hearings as follows:
Recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court relate only to prayers and Bible-reading which are part of official exercises in public schools.
We believe that these decisions are not hostile to religion, and that it is no proper function of government to inculcate religious beliefs or habits of worship. We are advised that nothing in these decisions prevents voluntary expressions of reverence or religious sentiments in the schools, nor forbids the offering of prayers on public occasions, such as inaugurations.
The court clearly allows for the objective study of religion, and particularly of the Bible, in public schools, and suggests the possibility of including within the public school curriculum an understanding of the role of religion in society. culture, and history.
We believe that worship and religious education are the responsibility of church and home, and not of the public schools or governmental institutions. There are no easy solutions to the task of infusing all of life with God's purpose without, at the same time, violating the religious liberty of citizens.
The National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church records its considered opinion that amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America which seek to permit devotional exercises in our public schools should be opposed.
Later in 1964 the council established an executive position in its department of Christian education to explore and develop materials useful in the objective study of religion in public schools as encouraged by the Court.
When the present hearings were announced on Senate Joint Resolution 148, the presiding bishop, the Right Reverend John E. Hines, D.D., reviewed the position of the church on the question of Senate Joint Resolution 148's provision of "voluntary participation by students or others in prayer." As recently as August 2, 1966, he issued the following statement, and I am quoting his statement:
I am personally opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment which would permit voluntary participation in prayer in public schools. In my opinion, prayer is an act of faith which can only be effective and worthwhile when it involves personal commitment on the part of the one who prays to God; and when it involves personal commitment to a way of life which stems from profound theological convictions. The public schools of this country, in the light of the traditional doctrine of the separation of church and state, do not afford the best areas for the encouragement of the kind of faith from which prayer rightfully springs. Voluntary participation in prayer in public schools would more than likely promote divisiveness and would likely become a formalism which would militate against the very thing which the amendment apparently seeks. The encouragement of such prayer rightfully belongs in church, synagogue and home. Its exclusion from the public school arena serves notice of the nature of this high responsibility upon those institutions which properly should cultivate it. I hope the amendment will not prevail.
That is the end of Bishop Hines' quote.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, for this opportunity to present the opposition of the Episcopal Church to the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 148.
Senator BAYH. Thank you, Reverend Halbert, for your thoughtful presentation. I wonder if I could ask a question or two?
I notice in your statement you point out that you were advised that nothing in these decisions prevents the voluntary expression of reverence religious sentiment in schools nor do they forbid the offering of prayers on public occasions.
Reverend HALBERT. Yes.
Senator BAYH. Now, previous testimony which we have had before us would indicate that there is a great deal of misunderstanding on what the Supreme Court ruling does do.
Is it the position of Bishop Hines, yourself, and the Episcopal Church that voluntary expressions of reverence and religious sentiment in schools is all right? This is not contrary to what the Episcopal Church feel is the place of religion. They feel it is proper in school?
Reverend HALBERT. Yes, sir. I stated that by our actions, and also speaking personally for myself, I cannot see any legislation which can prevent a voluntary expression of religious faith. I think there is a distinction that needs to be made between oral and silent prayer.
I am sure that most of our church young people in school resort to spontaneous voluntary prayer on many occasions. But when it be comes group participation this is where the problem is raised.
Senator BAYH. What about periods of silent meditation, would you be opposed to that?
Reverend HALBERT. It would depend upon how it was structured in the school. I am sure silent meditation takes places on the part of many of our young people in the course of the schoolday.
Senator BAYH. It has not been tested in the courts, but at least one State, Massachusetts, and I think there is another one, provided by State law, recently, and the attorney general of that State has ruled so far as he is concerned it is constitutional, for a period of silent meditation not to exceed 2 minutes, at the beginning of the schoolday. It is a statutory provision in Massachusetts.
Reverend HALBERT. We have taken no official action on that. But my personal tendency is to feel that it probably would be a more flexible approach to accepting this than any oral prayers read at a
Senator BAYH. The two or three main court decisions on these prayers have all involved prayers that have been instituted either by the Board of Regents as, in the Vitale case, or the legislature as in the Maryland and Pennsylvania cases that prescribed religious requirements or content in the prayer assembly. Some examples have been brought to us of what have been classified as "cookie and milk” prayers by kindergarten and first-grade children. The prayer goes something like this: "Thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the flowers so sweet." What about this type of prayer?
Reverend HALBERT. As long as they are in a particularly prescribed period, I wonder how they can be voluntary, although there may be wide participation on the part of the young people. I have had a background in Christian education and worked with teachers and the very knotting problem is to provide an occasion where prayer is voluntary and spontaneous.
It is the problem even of church school teachers who try to inculcate religious practices in their children that it becomes a formalization even in the church, and real voluntary expression of prayer is spontaneous and on occasion and when you tend to put it into a particular period of time it seems to create a kind of formalism and lack of individual participation which is not, in the long run, good for religious
Senator BAYI. I appreciate your testimony very much. I won't pursue it any further. You stressed voluntariness. Do you think the present court decision would permit this? Is there still flexibility to permit voluntary expression?
Reverend HALBERT. I believe so. I am sure there is voluntary and spontaneous prayer in our public schools now, and that no change in the first amendment is necessary to allow for it.
Senator BAYH. Do you feel the average individual Episcopal layman, who is out in the precincts, shares the belief that voluntary prayer is permitted?
Reverend HALBERT. No, I do not believe so. I believe the churches in a way have failed to communicate to their constituency the kind of