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policy through changes in the constitution is suddenly an accept
and economy in government are being called for, this proposal
will mean that teachers, who are paid to provide quality educa
tion to their students, have the actual amount of classroom time
devoted to education decreased.
I would like to quote here from
a very thoughtful letter (see attached) received recently by the
NEA, written by a woman, Mary Musgrave from West Fork, Arkansas,
who is neither an NEA member nor a teacher, and wino has strong
concerns about this very issue.
"... Foremost, however, tne conviction that they (teachers) are ecucators, not semir.ariar.s. They resert t1.7e taken :: the first purpose, namely, to educate.
not a smal: item, neither time or moneywise. 35 ar average salary of $12 an hour, based on a sever. hour day, 35 week year, will cost one dollar per teacher per day for a five minute session including the time needed to dismiss and recall n.or-participants. This figure woulė be sa 372.? ca:'y $11.500,000 weekly and over $400,00.000 annually. wice, 194,000 hours would be used each car for a cor - academic purpose.
The NEA strongly agrees with Ms. Musgrave's conclusior. tha:
ficient use of teachers' time and taxpayers' money.
Another key point on which the NEA opposes the adoption of
a constitutional amendment on school prayer rests
belief in the diversity of America--a diversity that we
no longer sure President Reagan acknowledges or appreciates.
For example, currently all students are free to silently worship
in whatever form they choose in the classroom.
Whether the stu
dents belong to the Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, or Muslir faiths
or any other number of religious minority groups in the country
their rights to their own prayer are
not infringed upon is ary
*Ms. Musgrave s figures were arrived at assumirea total million public school teachers in the country.
15 ccé illion.
published in the Baltimore Sun, and syndicated widely:
one problem with institutional prayer parallels the
A column written by Samuel Shaffer. retirec c.ci .res
sional correspondent for Jewsweek magazine, published last week
in the Washington Post, underscores many of the important points
made by Mr. Kilpatrick. (Both columns are attached to the
On top of the fact that this group prayer will undoubtedly
certain that if public school teachers were removed from the
nation's Sunday schools each week, we would find literally
hundreds of thousands of empty seats
in places of Worship throuch
out the land.
But asking these same deeply religious people to stand at
the head of a classroom to lead a prayer chosen by others is
infringement of their religious rights.
students, teachers who choose not
are put into a pre
If they choose to exercise
rights and leave the classroom during prayer, trere will most
likely be a price to pay.
a relevant passace on
this subject in Ms. Musgrave s letter:
I have no illusions as to ostracism of non-pravers by their peers. This same persecution will be Visited upon teachers by the administration, school board. ard eventually the community. Non-conforming teachers would
be forced out of their jobs and. indeed, their profes-
may offer instruction in comparative religion;
may be rented
in off-hours to religious groups.
In addition, under current law,
may be allowed to leave school
premises to receive
may study the history of religion and its role in
In closing. I urge this Committee to reject the constitu
tional amendment on school prayer, and by doing so to keep
religious diversity and liberty in its high position of importance
in American society without color of government mandate.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to be here today.
RESOLUTION FIRST ADOPTED BY THE NEA 1978 REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY AND
REAFFIRMED IN 1979, 1980, 1981, AND 1982
H-6. Sectarian Practices in the School Program The National Education Association believes that the constitutional provisions on the establishment of and the free exercise of religion in the First Amendment require that there be no sectarian practices in the public school program.
The Association opposes the imposition of sectarian practices in the public school program and urges its affiliates to do the same. (78, 79)
WEST FORK, ARK., July 21, 1982. Congressman John Paul HAMMERSCHMIDT, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR CONGRESSMAN HAMMERSCHMIDT: I am deeply concerned about the efforts by Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms, et al, to bring about a constitutional amendment that would allow for prayer in our public schools. However, my fears extend into an area that has been deviously ignored by the Fundamentalists, that of teacher involvement should such an amendment become law.
Jerry Falwell's own figures show 75 percent of Americans favor school prayer and 25 percent do not. Let us apply these figures to members of the teaching profession. NEA and AFT have a combined membership of 2,300,000. Using Falwell's calculations, 1,725,000 would favor such an amendment but 575,000 would not.
Three members of my immediate family are long time teachers. I have discussed this issue with them at length and asked them to evaluate the attitudes of their fellow teachers. The consensus indicates that opposition to school prayer is higher among teachers than in the general population. Fundamentalism is not generally the religion of choice among better educated persons. Generally, a good education fosters respect for diversity of belief or unbelief. Foremost, however, is the conviction that they are educators, not seminarians. They resent time taken from the first purpose, namely, to educate. This is not a small item, neither time or moneywise. At an average salary of $12 an hour, based on a seven hour day, 36 week year, it will cost one dollar per teacher per day for a five minute session including the time needed to dismiss and recall non-participants. This figure would be $2,300,000 daily, $11,500,000 weekly and over $400,000,000 annually. Nationwide, 194,000 hours would be used each day for a non-academic purpose. I do not know how many unaffiliated teachers there are. If they had been included in these figures, calculations would be even higher.
My most urgent concern, however, is my belief that school prayer is simply a smoke screen, a first step to complete religious control of faculty and curricula in our schools. True proponents and those who are forced to choose hypocrisy over job loss will have little or no trouble, but what will happen to the teachers whose convictions are strong enough that they choose to "buck the system”. Will those teachers be allowed to leave the majority of their pupils unattended and exercise their constitutional right by leaving the room with the 25 percent of students who are non-prayers? In schools without PA systems, will teachers be expected to lead prayers with no respect for their personal convictions? I have no illusions as to ostracism of non-prayers by their peers. This same persecution will be visited upon teachers by the administration, school board, and eventually the community. Nonconforming teachers would be forced out of their jobs and, indeed, their professions by majority opinion. Nothing is more personal that one's religious convictions. Teachers who have performed faithfully for years with no thought of bringing their religious beliefs to the attention of their pupils or co-workers will be forced to go public in a matter that should have absolutely no bearing on their ability as teachers. I cannot see how school administrations would be able to keep some type of religious determination out of their hiring practices if they are to avoid a continuous string of incidents and lawsuits involving dissident teachers. Ultimately, our schools would be staffed exclusively by the devout and the meek providing fertile ground for the predicted religious takeover.
I am not against prayer, only prayer on school time where at least 25 percent of pupils and teachers are unwilling participants. School buildings are used during non-school hours for a vast variety of activities. I see no reason why an area of the building could not be used before or after school hours to allow students under willing adult supervision to gather for prayer. The 75 percent of parents and students who want school prayer would have it. What they would not have is the opportunity to embarrass and harass the 25 percent who do not want it. Sincerely yours,
MARY C. MUSGRAVE.
[From the Baltimore Sun, May 26, 1982)
FIRST, A MOMENT OF SILENCE
(By James J. Kilpatrick)
PRAYER IN SCHOOL
WASHINGTON.-President Reagan has just sent to Capitol Hill his proposed constitutional amendment on prayer in public schools. If wisdom and prudence prevail, the resolution will be quietly buried in the judiciary committees.
Sad to say, wisdom and prudence seldom prevail in an election year. This resolution will be a tough one to vote against. Mr. Reagan would write into the Constitution this provision:
“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 prayer.
Several things are wrong with this proposition. For one thing, “individual prayer" never has been prohibited by any court at any time. Nothing on earth prevents a school child from bowing his head over his desk and saying a silent prayer whenever he feels so disposed.
Neither have the courts had a word to say about prayer in “other public institutions.” Over the years, various atheistic petitioners have complained of prayer in the houses of Congress, in state legislatures and at military installations. Sessions of the Supreme Court itself are opened with prayer: "God save this honorable Court." To the extent that the amendment seeks to authorize a custom that is no-where pro hibited, the amendment is quite simply unnecessary.
The issue involves one subject only: group prayer in public schools. That is what we are talking about, and it is all we are talking about. Let me argue a case against it.
First, on this matter of “voluntarism.” The Reagan draft says, in effect, that no child should be required to participate in a group prayer. As a practical matter, the saving sentence has no meaning. Attendance at a public school is compulsory; the child has to be there. Few children ever would risk the conspicuous embarrassment of refusing to do what the teacher and other children are doing. Saying that classroom prayer is voluntary cannot make it so.
Second, the amendment's protection of “group prayer" plainly implies a structured, organized service of some kind. But what kind? Are state boards of education to provide an official prayer for use statewide? Is every local board to compose its own? Is the group to be led by indivudual teachers or pupils? Once we embrace the idea of "group prayer," we embrace laws respecting an establishment of religion. The First Amendment has prohibited such laws for nearly 200 years. Do we truly want to cast that long experience aside?
Third, one problem with institutional prayer parallels the problem often encounterd with institutional food. The group prayers that would be sanctioned by this amendment would be canned peas-bland, innocuous, inoffensive recitations, perfunctory rituals devoid of spiritual meaning. Heartfelt prayer demands something more.
Mr. Reagan is quite in error in his view of the present state of the law. He says that the high court "has effectively removed prayer from our classrooms," but it is only institutionalized prayer that the court has condemned. The president says his amendment: “will restore the right to pray.” but so far as the individual child is concerned, that right never has been suspended.
In his statement of May 6, the president asked a rhetorical question: "How can we hope to retain our freedom through the generations if we fail to teach our young that our liberty springs from an abiding faith in our Creator?" Some of us might respond by suggesting that our liberty springs from something else entirely. Our