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throw off such government and to provide new grounds for their future security.
Senator DENTON. Excuse me, Mr. McAteer. I have to go vote now. I hope that Senator Grassley has voted and is on his way back. Would you please summarize the remainder of your statement and then submit it for the record?
Mr. McATEER. I will do that, Senator. I will summarize it by saying, I am absolutely, beyond my ability to articulate it, rejoicing that we have a President who understands the great importance of Proverbs 29:2 that says when the righteous are in authority the people rejoice. When the wicked bear power, the people mourn.
I heartily support the amendment and I submit myself to working to see that this important decision is a positive decision in reversing what I feel, along with millions of other Americans, is a very, very bad decision that has been fostered upon our people now for some 20 years.
Senator DENTON. Thank you, Mr. McAteer.
Before I go to vote, I want to acknowledge that I admire you specifically for one thing I noticed in my hometown which took place while I was campaigning for the Senate. I had expressed the hope that some of the fundamental evangelical religious organizations in the South would seek to bring into their ranks at the top some of our black brethren and I was edified when I read in the paper that at a meeting you had in Mobile, Ala., five black and five white clergymen were on the stage that day. I expressed that appreciation before. I wanted to do it in this forum.
I will be back as soon as I vote.
Mr. Jarmin, if you would, you could begin making your opening statement with the staff. I assure you it will all be in the record and I will read it very carefully.
Mr. JARMIN. Rather than reading my entire statement, I would just like to touch on a few points contained in it and submit it for the record.
I suppose I should begin by saying that I am here representingwearing two hats. I am legislative director of Christian Voice but I am here also today representing Project Prayer. Project Prayer is a coalition, currently over 110 organizations and leaders, that represent millions of Americans throughout the country who are joined together to urge Congress to adopt this proposed constitutional amendment.
We also would like to urge this committee to very quickly and speedily consider this legislation and report it to the Senate floor as soon as possible.
There are many excellent arguments one could make why prayer should be returned to the schools and I think the previous panel articulated some of those well. I think the most important of all is very simple. The people want it. The people have been waiting for 20 years for Congress to do something about it and Congress has done nothing about it.
If you look at the polls, of course, overwhelmingly three-quarters of the American people support school prayer. In fact, in every major poll taken since 1962, the first decision that eliminated prayer, we find that virtually-that 75 percent or more of people supporting prayer had been consistent throughout.
Now we have come to this crisis, I think, for a couple of reasons. For 170 years we had a consensus in this Nation that prayer in public schools was correct, it was constitutional, and suddenly, in 1962, we changed 170 years of history. We changed the interpretation of the Constitution for what it had been for 170 years.
That leads me to an observation. Either the Founding Fathers and the American people for 170 years were totally wrong and suddenly in 1962 the light dawned on us that prayer in schools was bad. It cannot be both ways. You cannot have it both ways. Either the American people, the courts and all of our Founding Fathers and everybody since from the beginning of our country until 1962-either they were right or the Supreme Court in 1962 was right.
Obviously, I think the Supreme Court was totally wrong. What we have here is a classic case of constitutional revisionism and a vast distortion and misunderstanding of what the first amendment intended. And as my brother Ed here mentioned, there is clearly a gross distortion of what the separation concept actually meant. It is clear that it was meant purely to prevent Congress and the Federal Government from establishing an official state church such as the Church of England. In no way was it intended, in my opinion and the opinion of most people testifying today, that this was intended to prevent prayer as an activity in any type of public gathering, including in a public school.
So I think that we have to overcome this argument first and foremost. Those who advocate the separation argument are preaching constitutional revisionism which flies totally in the face of the Constitution itself and history.
In fact, there is an illogical contradiction to the fact that we have currently many types of religious exercises and prayer exercises in many public official institutions. Prayer in Congress, prayer in the Supreme Court, in numerous local State activities throughout the country. We find this in all walks of life.
So let us assume the other side is correct and the separation argument was correct. If you take it to its logical conclusion then, then we must immediately in this Congress, those who vote against this amendment-if they have any ounce of honesty, any ounce of intellectual honesty, would immediately submit legislation tomorrow abolishing prayer in Congress because how—what more official public State body can you have than the Congress of the United States and if public-supported educational institutions cannot have prayer, such as a public school, then why in the world can we have it here?
So I would challenge those who would vote against this, if they are totally logical and consistent and honest, they would introduce legislation tomorrow to abolish prayer in the Senate and the House of Representatives, to abolish the chaplains in the armed services, to abolish any form or reference to God in any public or official document that has ever existed or will come in the future That is where it logically leads.
I would also point out that the motive I believe of some of those, not all, of the other side who oppose this amendment or support the Supreme Court decisions that abolish school prayer-I think part of the motive is basically a hostility toward religion, and an effort to purge any influence of God in any of our public life. We have seen not only court cases involving voluntary prayer but we have seen court suits led by the other side, particularly the ACLU, in which they have tried to abolish having Nativity scenes in front of a public building in Colorado. They have tried to abolish Christmas pageants or having children sing Christmas carols in their schools.
We now have Madeline O'Hare with a suit trying to force Congress to abolish the chaplains that they have. So it is not just the public schools.
What we have is an attack on religious influence. Or the acknowledging of God in many and all of our public activities.
So we have a great crisis here. This flies in the tradition of our history and really is an effort by those who preach a philosophy of secular humanism to impose that philosophy on public officialdom and public life at the expense of our freedom to worship God. I think that is really the key issue here. What is unconstitutional is not the activity of prayer in the public schools. What is unconstitutional is the lack of it.
The first amendment clearly states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Clearly two or three cannot gather in His name in a public school. That is a fact based upon these decisions. Group prayer we are told is unconstitutional.
Well, if anything is unconstitutional, it is the State or the courts telling two or three children or more that they cannot gather and worship God in an organized way. This is totally unconstitutional and a violation of the free exercise of religion.
So I think this constitutional amendment is an excellent amendment. I think it will help to restore what is and should be the correct interpretation of the Constitution, allow for that freedom and that diversity of religious expression to be expressed in public schools and hopefully bring us to a situation where we can restore some of that lost value of reverence for God that is not allowed today in our public schools.
I think that that is a central purpose and a central reason why prayer is good and necessary in a public school. Our public institutions-our public schools, I mean, are not there just to teach children to read and write and other forms of academic study. The public schools also help to reinforce other values that we in society hold, we like to see inculcated in our children and reinforced. Such as the value of discipline. Without that a child cannot study. If he is not disciplined to study, to listen to his teacher, to pay attention, they are not going to learn. Discipline is a type of value we share. Respect for authority, teachers, the elderly-if you have no respect for that teacher and what that teacher is going to teach you, then, obviously, you are not going to learn. There is an environment you are trying to foster. Without discipline, respect for authority, education is impossible.
Well, reverence and acknowledgment of God and that God does exist and does play a role in our daily life is another value that the vast majority of the people in society believe in. I think restoring that-prayer is helping to restore that value, where acknowledgment of God, our dependence upon Him and our need to depend on Him in our school life as well as outside of school.
Rather than going any further, I would just like to close by thanking this committee for taking the time to pay attention to this very important issue. Unfortunately, past Congresses, and, unfortunately, on the House side, we have not had the luxury of really making our feelings known this extensively on the issue.
I would like to thank Senator Thurmond and Senator Grassley and Senator Denton and all the others for being here today.
Finally, I would like to urge again and hope that this committee will act expeditiously on this constitutional amendment and report it to the Senate floor.
Senator GRASSLEY (presiding). Thank you, Mr. Jarmin and Mr. McAteer for your testimony.
I would like to ask some questions for the chairman of the committee.
First of all, three general questions that were previously asked of other witnesses and then some specific questions we have for each
Some opponents of school prayer say that Thomas Jefferson's doctrine of separation of church and state is a justification for the prohibiting of prayer in school. What is, in your opinion, wrong with that argument?
Mr. McATEER. Well, I think it is a classic example, Senator, of those who set the agenda for debate, who decide what the issues are and what they mean, contrary many times to what they are and what they mean, have completely misinterpreted and see it so many times in the media, what he said and when he said it, when the first amendment was written, that Thomas Jefferson seems to be looked to in that wall of church and state question.
Thomas Jefferson was in Paris, France, and actually the wall of separation of church and state statement as alluded to here earlier this morning was a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists when they actually rebuked him for his lack of biblical pursuit in his duties and he said that it seemed to him-later on he wrote and apologized for that statement and I said a little earlier that from the standpoint of separation of church and state, right thinking people who believe in the Bible and who worship God and know the history, allegories through Europe and so forth, are unalterably opposed to church ruling the state and vice versa. But we must constantly remind people that do have a serious question about this that our Founding Fathers never intended to separate God from government because God is the basis of government. God established three institutions: The home, the church, and the government and he established government for the sole purpose of restraining evil and protecting its citizens.
So I say, it is a fallacious argument and once it is really explained and people understand it, then they have no fear of this amendment that we are talking about.
Senator GRASSLEY. Mr. Jarmin?
Mr. Jarmin. I think I addressed that issue in my testimony. I would just say, regardless of what Thomas Jefferson meant by what he said, the fact is that that is not a substitute for the amendment itself. What is in the Constitution is what is important, not what Jefferson said many, many years later, after it was written. Also, I think that he has been greatly misinterpreted. But, again, I would share with Mr. McAteer, that separation was intended only-the separation does not exist in the first amendment, No. 1. The first amendment essentially states Congress shall make no law with regard to the establishment of religion and that was clearly interpreted by everybody at that time who understood it to mean that the Federal Government could not establish an official state church such as the Church of England. Clearly it did not mean that we should separate God from government because, on the one hand, why would the Founding Fathers write the first amendment meaning this intended us to separate God from government at the same time they asked to join together in prayer while they were drafting the Constitution. At the close of the Constitutional Convention they called for a declaration of a day of prayer. I think George Washington called for it.
So clearly prayer is not religion. It is a form of religious activity but not in the traditional sense of the word a religion. It cannot be established just through the mere act of prayer, as the Founding Fathers intended.
This is just totally a fallacious argument, a great distortion of the meaning of the Constitution, to use that as a means of prohibiting prayer in public schools.
Senator GRASSLEY. The chairman's second general question states, "Opponents of school prayer are worried that this constitutional amendment will enable States to draft prescribed prayers. Should the States be able to draft official prayers?"
Mr. McATEER. No. I am of the firm opinion that the word "voluntary” is very important because prayer, even as some of those who oppose this amendment say, and I agree with them, prayer is a very personal thing. But that does not mean it is a silent thing. We see in scriptures and history and church and institutions that prayer, real prayer, is secret prayer but the acknowledgment of God in prayer is a public and a voluntary exercise at its best.
So I am opposed to a prescribed prayer. I go fully with the amendment as it says, voluntary prayer.
Mr. Jarmin. Well, I agree and I disagree with most of the statements that have been made on this issue up to now.
On the one hand, yes, I do not think it is necessarily desirable that a State be able to draft a prayer but I do not believe that this constitutional amendment would enable a State to prescribe a prayer and force any school district anywhere within that State to have to recite it. In fact, it might even be desirable for a State to come up with a proposed prayer simply to provide it to the local districts as a guide if they would choose to have a formal prayer they want recited. Then the State can draft one. Fine. But there is nothing in the constitutional amendment that would force, in my opinion, would force a school district to have to use that prayer.
Listen to what it says, “No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer." I think if it went to court one could logically I think--one would have a good case to say that a State could not force a school district or anybody to have to use a prayer that it might prescribe. But I think using that word "prescribed" is misleading. "Prescribed" to me means, if