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A PRONOUNCEMENT Policy Statement of the National Council of the
Churchics of Christ in the United States of America
THE CHURCHES AND THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Adopted by the General Board
June 7, 1963
As Christians we acknowledge God as the ground and source and confirmer of truth, whose Spirit is ever ready to respond to men's and children's search for understanding by correcting their fumbling misappro. hensions and leading them into larger and fuller truth. Teaching and learning at their highest are pursued within this recognition. As Ancricans we are firmly committed to the right of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, that is, the freedom of each citizen in the determination of his religious allegiance, and the freedom of religious groups and institutions in the exercise and declaration of their beliefs.
The American tradition with respect to the relations of government and religion, often described as "separation of church and state" does not mean that the state is hostile toward, or indifferent to, religion. On the contrary, governments-national, state and local-have pre. vailingly acknowledged the importance as well as the autonomy of religion and have given expression to this principle in many ways.
In present-day American society, with its diversity of religious conviction and affiliations, the place of religion in public education must be worked out within this recognition of the prevailingly positive attitude of the American people as a whole toward religion and safeguarding of religious liberty.
As Christians we believe that every individual has a right to an education aimed at the full developinent of his capacities as a human being crcated by God. his character as well as his intellect. We arc impelled by the love of neighbor to scck maximum educational opportunities for cach individual in onder that he may prepare lumscli lor responsible participation in the common lile.
context in which all individuals may share in an educa. tion which contributes to the full development of their capacities. It serves as a major cohesivo force in our pluralistic socicty. We also recognizo that significant value derives from the fact that this systein is financed by public funds, is responsive to the community as a whole, and is open to all without distinctions as to race, creed, national origin, or economic status. DEFINITION OF ROLES
Religious ideas, beliefs, values, and the contributions of churches are an integral part of our cultural heritage as a people. The public schools have an obligation to help individuals develop an intelligent understanding and appreciation of the role of religion in the life of the people of this nation. Teaching for religious commitment is the responsibility of the home and the commu. nity of faith (such as the church or synagogue) rather than the public schools.
We support the right of religious groups to establish and maintain schools at their own expense provided they ineet prescribed educational standards.
We support also the right of parents to decide whether their children shall attend public or non-public schools. The parent who chooses to send his children to a non-public school is not excused from the respon. sibility of the citizen to support and seek to improve the public schools.
Neither thic church nor the state should use the public school to compcl accrptance of any crecd or conformity to any specific rcligious practice.
Il is an essential task of the churches to provide ade. quate religious instruction thuongh every ones. Their cliposul. These include both those activities which individual chuches provide within their own walls and also various joint venturs of churches involving cooperation with the public schools, Christian aduc and the development and practice of Cloristian worship are inescapable obligations of the congregation and the family. We wan the churches against the all-too-human tendency to look to the state and its agencies for sup.
CONCERN FOR THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
We reaffirm our support of the systein of public adu. cation in the United States of America. It provides a In the document the termo "pobre mluentian" v "pullle cheol are Tekent mean the sotem of public elementary and secondary education in the United Stalen
port in fulfilling the churches' mission. Such a tendency ignore them. Any recognition of such holidays in the endangers both true religion and civil liberties. At the public schools should contribute to better community samo time, we call the churches to renewed worship, understanding and should in no way divert the attenstudy, work and sacrifice to fulfill their mission as God's tion of pupils and the community from the celebration people in the world.
of these holidays in synagogues and churches.
We express the conviction that the First Amendment PLACE OF RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
to our Constitution in its present wording has provided No person is truly educated for life in the modem the framework within which responsible citizens and world who is not aware of the vital part played by our courts have been able to afford maximum protection religion in the shaping of our hisiory and culture, and of for the religious liberty of all our citizens. its contemporary expressions. Information about reli. gion is an essential part of many school subjects such as
CHURCH SUPPORT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS social studies, literature and the arts. The contributions American public education should have the full of religious leaders, movements, and ideas should be and conscientious support of Christians and Christian treated objectively and broadly in any presentation of churches. Therefore, we urge our constituency to conthese subjects. Public school administrators and text- tinue efforts to strengthen and improve the American book producers are to be commended for the progress system of public education through positive steps such made to date in including objective information about as the following: religion in various subject matter fields. Teachers should
1. Providing intelligent appraisal and responsible criti. be trained to deal with the history, practices, and char- cism of programs of public education; acteristics of the various religious groups with compe- 2. Keeping informed about the needs of the public tence and respect for diverse religious convictions. schools and studying issues related to public educaTheir greatest influence will be through the life and tion as a basis for intelligent action as citizens; attitudes they reflect in the classroom. They should be
3. Supporting able candidates for boards of education free as persons to express their own convictions in an
and being willing to serve as members of such swer to direct questions from pupils when appropriate
boards; to the subject matter under study.
4. Working at local, state, and national levels for im. The full treatment of some regular school subjects
proved legislative and financial support of public requires the use of the Bible as a source book. In such
schools, studies-including those related to character develop
5. Emphasizing to prospective and present teachers ment-the use of the Bible has a valid educational pur- the profession of public school teaching as a vocation pose. But neither true religion nor good education is
that is worthy of the best service a Christian can give; dependent upon the devotional use of the Bible in the
6. Exploring cooperative arrangements of the churches public school program.
and schools whereby the church's teaching of reliThe Supreme Court of the United States in the Re
gion may be improved. gents' Prayer case has ruled that "in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official
In American education, there is a substantial inprayers for any group of the American people to recite ter-relation between primary, secondary and higher as part of a religious program carried on by the govern.
education. ment." We recognize the wisdom as well as the author.
It needs to be stressed that, in a substantial majority ity of this ruling. But whether prayers may be offered of publicly-maintained institutions of Higher Educa. at special occasions in the public schools may well be
tion, provision is offered for the voluntary election of Jest to the judgment of the board responsible for the courses in religion on a parity with all other subjects program of the public schools in the local community,
of the curriculum, and not infrequently for publicly. While both our tradition and the present temper of
supported chaplains and other services of religion. our nation reflect a preponderant belief in God as our The question should be explored whether these ar. Source and our Destiny, nevertheless attempts to cstab. rangements through which religious instruction and lish a "common core“ of religious beliefs to be taught in
services are provided within state institutions of Higher public schools have usually proven untcalistic and un. Education without infringement of law or offense to wisc. Major faith groups have not agreed on a formula- individual conscience may not offer sugestion for more tion of religious beliefs common to all. Even if they had adequate provision within the public schools of
oppor. donc so, such a body of religious doctrine would tend tunities for the study of religion where desired, Sully to become a substitute for the niore demanding commit- within the constitutional guarantees of freedom of con. ments of historic faiths.
science and of religious expression.
NOTE - The Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America has
A PRONOUNCEMENT Chuches of Christ in the United States of America
OPPOSITION TO THE CHRISTIAN AMENDMENT PROPOSAL
Adopted by the General Board
June 4, 1959
The General Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. reaffinns its support of religious freedom for all people and, being aware of proposals currently agitated for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States intending to declare that the United States is a Christian nation, sets forth the following concerns for the consideration of the churches and the nation.
(1) A constitutional amendment of this purport confuses the nature and function of the nation-state with the nature and function of churches. It would increase the present difficulties of citizens in comprehending and in continuing healthy separation and sound relations between church and state. These reflections are set forth with full awareness that this nation and all other nations stand constantly under the judgment and the sovereign authority of God.
(2) Previous attempts to maintain “Christian states," in carlier centuries as well as in our own, have been fraught with great problems and have failed in disillusion. They have frequently denied gencral liberty; and religious liberty in particular, to all who did not belong to the dominant body of Christians. In the American scene of today, a constitutional sanction for Christianity would tend to weaken the rights and lib). crties of citizens and others who are not Christians, io Jessen respect for their distinctive concerns, and to accentuate divisions within the body politic.
(3) The intended amendment would strengthen the hands of those who desire financial and other privi. leges for Christian churches ready and able to secure
them -- such as support of school and welfare institutions, extended tax privileges for property and enterprises under Christian names.
(4) The proposed amendment would embarrass our ecumenical relations and our missionary enterprises and also general international relations as viewed by Christians and by the world majority of non-Christians, through officially attaching the Christian name to military, economic, and other acts and policies of the Cor. ernment of the United States.
(5) To declare the United States a Christian nation in the churchman's sense of "Christian," is to assert less of truth than of pretension. That term rightly be. longs to significant religion, with biblical and theologi. cal meaning and simply is not applicable to the American nation as a whole. Moreover, the proposal in question, is given an aura of validity by incorporatio in the Constitution, would tempt many unthinking church members to complacent hypocrisy in their outlook upon society, national and international. In fine, it is perilous, even sacrilegions, to turn to the political forun for practical determination of the public meining of the great word, “Cliristian.” The churclı cannot share this word, central and peculiar to its character, with the nation-state.
In the light of these considerations the Xitional Council of Churches records its opposition to the pro. posal for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States intending to declare the United States to be a Christiu nation. 59 FOR. I AGAINST, O ABSTENTIOXS
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115 James Armstrong, President
Claire Randall, General Secretary
Adopted by the Governing Board
May 13, 1982
WHEREAS, in a Policy Statement entitled "The Churches and the Public Schools",
adopted June 7, 1963, the Governing Board of the National Council of
Neither the church nor the state should use the public school to
WHEREAS, the same Policy Statement also stated:
The Supreme Court of the United States in the Regents' Prayer Case has ruled that "In this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as part of a religious program carried on by the government." We recognize
the wisdom as well as the authority of this ruling...; WHEREAS, the same Policy Statement continued:
We express the conviction that the First Amendment to our Constitution in its present wording has provided the framework within which responsible citizens and our courts have been able to afford maximum protection for the
religious liberty of all our citizens...; WHEREAS, the President of the United States has recently announced his intention
to propose to Congress a constitutional amendment which could lead to the
reinstatement of group prayer in public schools; WHEREAS, the recitation of prescribed nondenominational prayer demeans true
religion by denying the traditions of faith groups while imposing on some
children religious practices which are offensive to them; and WHEREAS, there is a danger that the rights of members of minority religions would
not be adequately protected; NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE Governing Board of the National Council
of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. reaffirms its belief, as set forth in the Policy Statement on "The Churches and the Public Schools" that "Christian nurture and the development and practice of Christian worship
are unescapable obligations of the congregation and the family;" and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Governing Board reaffirms its support of the
Supreme Court language describing the First Amendment as providing no role for government in prescribing or providing for prayer in public schools.
Policy Statement on "The Church and the Public Schools: June 7, 1963.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REV, JIMMY R. ALLEN
INTRODUCTION: Since some proponents of this proposed constitutional
amendment on religious ritual in public schools paint those opposing
its passage as disbelievers in prayer, liberals in theology, or
secularists, I would like to begin my remarks by identifying my
perspective on the issue.
I come as a theologically conservative evangelical Christian.
Until rather recently I served for a number of years as pastor of
a nine-thousand member congregation of Christians in the heart of
one of America's major cities. I am convinced that the spiritual energy
which caused that congregation to lead its state and be one of the
leaders in the nation in what we Baptists call evangelism--that is
leading persons to become believers through prayer commitment to
God in life changing experience--came out of profound experiences
of prayer. While there may be some voices arguing against the proposed
amendment out of indifference to the prayer experience, I am not one
of them. I argue against it out of that very concern for authentic
and genuine expression of prayer. I think it is bad law which would
produce either bland or bad results for genuine spiritual awakening
in our land.
to speak for myself. It is a cardinal principle among
Baptists that no Baptist speaks for another. This concept is often
misunderstood and is difficult to convey, but it is very important
to us. We call it the priesthood of the believer. Even during those
years when I served our constitutional limit of time as the elected
leader as President of the Southern Baptist Convention, I could only
voice my own views to the minds and consciences of the nation's largest
evangelical denomination. We also apply that principle to our convention