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S i n c e t h e e a r l y 1 9 6 0 ~when
t h ~
Supreme C o u r t r u l e d t h a t S t a t e r e q u i r e d s c h o o l p r a y e r was i n c o n f l i c t w i t h t h e f i r s t amendment, t h i s
i s s u e h a s r e m a i n e d a h i g h l y p u b l i c i z e d and c o n t r o v e r s i a l o n e .
of c o u r t d e c i s i o n s s i n c e t h a t time have kept t h e i s s u e i n t h e public
P e r i o d i c a l l y , l e g i s l a t i o n h a s b e e n i n t r o d u c e d which would l i m i t
t h e j u r i s d i c t i o n o f t h e Supreme C o u r t and t r a n s f e r a u t h o r i t y t o
I n May, P r e s i d e n t Reagan s e n t a c o n s t i t u t i o n a l
amendment t o C o n g r e s s w h i c h , i f r a t i f i e d , would p e r m i t s c h o o l p r a y e r .
T h i s I n f o P a c k p r o v i d e s c o m p r e h e n s i v e c o v e r a g e o f Supreme
C o u r t d e c i s i o n s and l e g i s l a t i o n o n t h e s c h o o l p r a y e r i s s u e from 1962
t o the present.
Additional information on t h i s t o p i c , p r i m a r i l y i n p e r i o d i c a l s
and n e w s p a p e r s , may b e f o u n d i n a l o c a l l i b r a r y t h r o u g h t h e u s e o f
i n d e x e s s u c h a s t h e R e a d e r s ' Guide t o P e r i o d i c a l L i t e r a t u r e . P u b l i c
A f f a i r s I n f o r m a t i o n S e r v i c e B u l l e t i n ( P A I S ) , a n d t h e New York Times
We hope t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n w i l l b e u s e f u l .
Reproduced w i t h p e r m i s s i o n of c o p y r i g h t c l a i m a n t by t h e L i b r a r y o f Congress,
Congressional Research S e r v i c e , June 1 , 1982.
Washington P o s t , May 18, 1982, p . A-10
Hill Gets Reagan's
By Lou Cannon
Wnshlngton Pa& Stall Wrlter
President Reagan yesterday sent Congress a 37word proposed constitutional amendment that
would permit voluntary prayer in school.
The wording of the amendment represented
what one White House aide called the "maximum
defensible position" on school prayer and rejected
the suggestions of some aides who favored treating "an affirmative right to prayer."
The proposed wording reads: "Nothing in this
Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other
public institutions. No person shall be required by
the United States or by any state to participate in
Essentially, the amendment would restore the
law to what it was before the Supreme Court
struck down school-sponsored prayer in claw
rooms two decades ago. Speaking to advocates of
the amendment in the White House Rose Garden
on May 6, Reagan urged a reawakening of "America's religious and moral heart" and protection of
religion from *government tyranny."
His advocacy of the amendment was a gesture
to conservative evangelicals to whom Reagan had
promised during the 1980 presidential campaign
support for a school prayer amendment.
But in settling on its wording, in language favored by presidential counselor Edwin Meese 111
and the Justice Department, the president opted
for something less than the "affirmative right to
prayer" that some of the most militant conservatives advocated.
Theoretically, the amendment proposed yestcrday would allow states the option of outlawing
school prayers. Reagan opted for a position that
an aide described as "getting the federal government out of the business of protecting or invalidating prayer."
Morton Blackwell, a special assistant to the
president who is liaison to conservative groups,
predicted speedy approval of the amendment by
Congress and prompt ratification by the states.
Blackwell, who helped draft the proposal, observed that polls showed that three-fourths of
Americans supported the amendment despite opposition from a number of religious groups.
T h e public expression through prayer of our
faith in God is a fundamental part of our American heritage and a privilege which should not be
excluded by law from any American school, public
or private," Reagan said in a message accompanying the proposed amendment.
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD- SENA
PRAYER-MESSAGE FROM THE
T h e PRESIDING OFFICER laid
before the Senate the following message from the President of t h e United
States, together with accompanying
papers; which was referred to the
Committee on the Judiciary:
To the Congress of the United States:
I have attached for your consideration a proposed constitutional amendment to restore the simple freedom of
our citizens to offer prayer in our
public schools and institutions. The
public expression through prayer of
our faith in God is a fundamental part
of our American heritage and a privilege which should not be excluded by
law from any American school, public
One hundred fifty years ago. Alexis
de Tocqueville found that all Americans believed that religious faith was
indispensable to the maintenance of
their republican institutions. 1 de Tocqueville. Democracy i n America 316
(Vintage ed. 1945). Today, I join with
the people of this Nation in acknowledging this basic truth, that our liberty springs from and depends upon an
abiding faith in God. This has been
clear from the time of George Washington. who stated in his farewell address:
"Of all the dispositions and habits
which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable
supports. . . . And let us with caution
indulge the supposition that morality
can be maintained without religion.
. . . (R)eason and experience both
forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." 35 The Writings of
Ge0~geWashington 229 (J. F'itzpatrick
Nearly every President since Washington has proclaimed a day of public
prayer and thanksgiving to acknowledge the many favors of Almighty God. We have acknowledged
God's guidance on our coinage, in our
national anthem, and in the Pledge of
Allegiance. As the Supreme Court has
stated: "We are a religious people
whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being." Zorach n. Clauson, 343
U.S. 306, 313 (1952).
The founders of our nation and t h e
framers of the First Amendment did
not intend to forbid public prayer. On
t h e contrary, prayer has been part of
our public assemblies since Benjamin
Franklin's eloquent request that
prayer be observed by the Constitutional Convention:
"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and
the longer I live, the more convincing
proofs I see of this truth-that God
governs in the affairs of men. . . . I
also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by
our little partial local interests; our
projects will be confounded, and we
May 17, 198.2
ourselves shall become a reproach and
bye word down to future ages. . . .
"I therefore beg leave to move-that
henceforth prayers imploring t h e assistance of Heaven, and its blessings
on our deliberations, be held in this
Assembly every morning before we
proceed to business. . . ." 1 The Records of the Federal Convention of
1787, 451-52 (M. Farrand ed. 1966).
Just as Benjamin Franklin believed
it was beneficial for the Constitutional
Convention to begin each day's work
with a prayer, I believe that it would
be beneficial for our children to have
an opportunity to begin each school
day in the same manner. Since the law
has been construed to prohibit this. I
believe that the law should be
changed. It is time for the people,
through their Congress and t h e state
legislatures, to act, using the means afforded them by the Constitution.
The amendment I propose will
remove the bar to school prayer established by the Supreme Court and
allow prayer back in our schools. However, the amendment also expressly affirms the right of anyone to refrain
from prayer. The amendment will
allow communities to determine for
themselves whether prayer should be
permitted in their public schools and
to allow individuals to decide for
themselves whether they wish to participate in prayer.
I am confident that such an amendment will be quickly adopted, for the
vast majority of our people believe
there is a need for prayer in our public
schools and institutions. I look forward to working with Congress to
achieve the passage of this amendent.
THEWHITEHOUSE,May 17, 1982.
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