50 Years Without Official School Prayer
Fifty years ago this month, the Supreme Court declared an official school prayer unconstitutional. How have the schools fared since then? The facts speak for themselves.
The June 25, 1962 ruling by the Supreme Court was Engel v. Vitale, the first in a string of decisions that seemed to rule God and the Bible out of our public schools. Justice Hugo Black wrote the Engel decision, saying, "a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion." I agree with that statement, but not his decision.
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Justice Potter Stewart, the lone dissenter, wrote, "On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these schoolchildren to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation." As we'll see, that heritage is quite considerable.
Part of the problem with the case in question was that the New York State Board of Regents - a government body - had written a bland prayer that they hoped would offend no one.
Well, bad cases can end up causing bad precedents. Those who objected to the prayer could, and did, point out that the state had no business getting into the prayer-writing business.
But the bigger issue is the symbolic one. The Supreme Court seemed to begin a process of censorship of God in the public schools that continues to this day.
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