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Mr. MCCLELLAN. If our next panel could come forward, Hon. James Corman, Mr. George Bushnell, Hon. John Buchanan, and Dr. George Ogle.
Because of the time factor, I shall again have to impose the 6minute time limitation, again with the understanding that if you have a written statement, it will be placed in the record in full.
Mr. Corman, would you begin first, please?
STATEMENTS OF HON. JAMES CORMAN, REPRESENTING AMERI
CANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, SILVER SPRING, MD.; GEORGE E. BUSHNELL, REPRESENTING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, NEW YORK, N.Y.; HON. JOHN BUCHANAN, REPRESENT. ING PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY, WASHINGTON, D.C.; GEORGE OGLE, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, GENERAL BOARD OF CHURCH AND SOCIETY, THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Mr. CORMAN. Thank you, Mr. McClellan, and I will summarize my statement and try not to use the 6 minutes.
I am James Corman, attorney with the firm of Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Tunney in Washington, D.C., and am a former Member of the House of Representatives from California. However, as a member of the board of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I am representing that organization in their opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 199.
Americans United is a 35-year-old organization dedicated solely to the preservation of the religious liberty and church-state separation provisions of the first amendment of the Constitution. We represent through our membership individuals of conservative and liberal political persuasions as well as the full spectrum of religious faiths and nonbelievers who are concerned with the preservation of religious freedom.
The diversity in Americans United's own membership symbolizes the diversity of religious beliefs in this country, which is one of this nation's greatest strengths and most precious freedoms.
We believe that religious liberty and true freedom of religious expression would be greatly weakened by the amendment.
By introducing this amendment the administration reopened a 20-year-old controversy that began with the 1962 Supreme Court decision of Engel v. Vitale.
The intent of the Administration to overturn Engel v. Vitale and subsequent Supreme Court decisions is evidenced by a questionand-answer form distributed at the White House on the day the President announced his intention to file the amendment.
The following question and answer was included: Question. Will State governments or local school boards be free to compose their own prayers if this amendment is ratified?
Answer. Yes. States and communities would be free to select prayers of their own choosing. They could choose prayers that have already been written, or they could compose their own prayers.
Mr. CORMAN. It is important to reiterate here what others have said repeatedly: no child has ever been prohibited from praying in public schools. This no court or Government agency could ever or would ever attempt to do.
It was my rare privilege to have had Chief Justice Warren as a personal friend. He once told me that he thought the decision was best highlighted by two youngsters in a Herblock cartoon, walking to school. One says to the other: “I pray before an exam. I don't care what Earl Warren says.
Who would decide what kind of prayer would be recited during the class day? School administrators, teachers, school boards would be the most likely-perhaps State boards of education would decide what prayers to be given.
One argument proponents of this legislation give for passage of this amendment is that the Supreme Court decisions of 1962 and 1963 caused the country and the public schools to slide into moral decay. Drug abuse, crime and juvenile delinquency, among other evils, are the direct results of removing prayer from schools. That's absurd. Did all of our religious institutions collapse when the Court restated what the law had been for nearly two centuries?
These State-sponsored religious activities are improper because, for many Americans, communication with one's god is a very personal experience and one that should not be trivialized into a disciplinary action, such as quieting a classroom or creating a serious tone or giving a rote prayer. A child's own religious beliefs would never be protected if his own beliefs were contrary to that of the norm in the community.
In addition, no one knows whether the religious exercise would be limited to prayer as a result of this amendment. School authorities might soon decide that prayer is meaningless without further religious instruction. They would be correct. But religious instruction and indoctrination is not the business of the government of a free people.
There is an ancillary problem that was raised in the House when we looked carefully at a similar proposal in 1964, and that was whether the advocates of the amendment wanted to create a right in each American to attend a school where religious prayer was a part of it, or did they merely want to remove the Federal constitutional prohibition, because the State of California, and a good many other States, have specific prohibitions against such conduct. And it seemed at the conclusion of our hearings that they were uncertain about that, but it is something that should be addressed if one is serious in going on with the proposal, the impact on States and their right to prohibit such conduct.
I thank you for listening to me.
Mr. BUSHNELL. Chief Counsel, my name is George E. Bushnell, Jr. I am an attorney in private practice in Detroit, Mich., and a ruling elder of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. I appear today at the request of William P. Thompson, stated clerk of the general assembly of that church, to represent the opposition of the general assembly to the proposed constitutional amendment to authorize prayer in public schools. This is a matter of fundamental importance to Presbyterians, and Mr. Thompson would have been with you were his presence not required in Ottawa, where he is an official delegate at the general council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
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By way of background, the United Presbyterian Church is the largest of the American denominations that continue in the Calvinist theological tradition and that are governed by interconnected representative bodies composed of both clergy and Iaity ordained to exercise governance in the church. It presently contains some 242 million members in 8,997 congregations, organized into 151 presbyteries and 15 regional synods. The denominational governing body, the general assembly, convenes annually and is composed of over 600 ordained elected representatives, half clergy and half laity. Its judgments on public issues form the most authoritative body of church moral teaching, though such authority in our polity is explicitly described as declarative and not mandatory.
Mr. McClellan, the testimony that has been filed with the committee traces in some detail the Presbyterian Church's concern with the issue confronting this committee dating back to the 16th century. I shall not burden this record this morning with even a precise of that testimony, but I do want to share with you the most recent action of our general assembly, which was taken in June of this year in Hartford, Conn. Parenthetically, I might note, our church has been represented in the several hearings that Congress has had on this issue which seems to reappear at an almost cyclical rate, and I specifically commend you and your staff to the three volumes of testimony in the 1964 hearings before the House, to which Mr. Corman has alluded, and I trust you will examine them carefully in making your recommendation to the committee.
But so far as the action of the general assembly most recently is concerned, it can best be paraphrased as follows:
First, religion does not need and should not have the sponsorship of government. Prayer is too important to believers to be routinized, reduced to mumbled incoherence as a political talisman, and trivilized to bland pan-religious conformity.
Second, attempts to promote religion through Government sponsorship, such as the amendment currently proposed, inevitably generate social and religious conflict. History is replete with bloody confirmation of the disastrous effort to compel faith or the observance of faith by civil fiat. Much of the world even today is sick with the fever generated when religion wields the power of government or contends for its favor and patronage. Should Congress send such a proposed amendment to the States, 50 legislatures will become religious combat zones. Should such an amendment by some chance be ratified, the conflict will continue in every American community as well as in the courts. The fruit of your labor will not be civil morality but will be unceasing civil strife.
Third, the attempt to describe the issue as voluntary prayer is, in our judgment, misleading. Any person can now pray in public school, as has been pointed out over and over and again this morning, so long as that prayer is not coercive to others or disruptive of the school's life. The intent of the amendment is to provide officially sanctioned public group prayer as part of the program of the school. To suggest that those who find state-sponsored religion meaningless, trivial, or offensive may ask to be excused is to ignore reality. We are guaranteed freedom from state-established religion, not the right to absent ourselves from its services. That guarantee should be kept intact and unambiguous.
I see that my time is coming to an end, and rather than use the entire 5 minutes, I respectfully suggest that, given the colloquy this morning, it is most appropriate to conclude these remarks with a quotation from the sixth chapter of Matthew. You, of course, will recall that Our Saviour was delivering the Sermon on the Mount, when he said, as an introduction to the Lord's Prayer:
And when you pray you are not to be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogue and on the street corners in order to be seen by men. Truly, I say to you they have their reward in full.
But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father, who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you.
Thank you, Mr. McClellan.
Mr. BUCHANAN. Thank you. I am John Buchanan. I am here today on behalf of People for the American Way, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational project formed in the fall of 1980 to protect and promote Americans' constitutional freedoms, especially those contained in the first amendment. We are opposed to this amendment, but it does remind us, again, of the rich diversity of religious faiths in the United States and of our founders' wisdom in drafting the first amendment so well, that so well protects our rich diversity.
Now, lest I forget, I would like to ask that there be included in the record a discussion paper written by People for the American Way by Rev. M. William Howard on the subject, and a special report of People for, and a few newspaper articles that are attached to the back of my statement.
Mr. McCLELLAN. That will be placed in the record.
Mr. BUCHANAN. I am intrigued to note that my Presbyterian friend closed with a quote that is also in my speech. I don't know whether he stole it or it's just that great minds run in the same track, but I'm pleased with the association.
Jesus did, indeed, urge his followers to pray in secret.
And I think there is a great misunderstanding of what prayer is that I have heard in the course of conversation this morning and previously. This amendment, most of us believe, is unnecessary. We do not believe that the present situation interferes with the free exercise of religious faith. But what are the things that the amendments does do?
It will amend the Bill of Rights. It will put the Government squarely between parents and children. It will strip children of the religious freedom they now enjoy-Mormon children in New York City or Protestant children in Baltimore or Jewish children in Dallas or non-Mormon children in Salt Lake City will have their personal religious beliefs contradicted at worst and trivialized at best. It will provoke endless legal turmoil. It will virtually eliminate spontaneous, voluntary prayer and we will have instead prayer sessions led by taxpayer-supported Government employees and teachers. It will mean that prayers will be selected from specific religious denominations or be written by Federal, State, and local official prayer-writing bureaucracies, as in Alabama we have a suggested prayer written into law most recently that is now being challenged in court.
I believe in prayer, but I also recognize that there are others who do not. And the Constitution exists both to protect my right to prayer and to protect those others who do not wish to engage in prayer. It has not been very long since Baptist ministers in the colony of Virginia were beaten, imprisoned, and run out of town for preaching doctrine at variance with the established church, and practicing dissent. The first amendment has served us well in protection against such eventualities.
The task of sustaining America's religious spirit is deeply individual and essentially private. It cannot be nurtured by Government edict, Government preparation of prayers, or by Government intervention in the religious lives of children.
I was intrigued to listen to remarks concerning Thomas Jefferson, because I think the purest definition of the separation of church and state can be found in his statute which he drafted for the State of Virginia, which was one of his proudest achievements, which protected religious freedom in that State. And, as you are aware, every State has followed the example of the Bill of Rights in enacting a religious liberty provision.
So the committee here, and the Congress, should it pass the amendment, will be overruling not only what the Founding Fathers did but what each State has done in this area.
Thomas Jefferson's statute, which he added to the Virginia law, stated that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods or otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief."
As a religious person, I am also troubled by the implications of the school prayer amendment because I fear it will trivialize prayer.
Two weeks ago some 150 religious leaders gathered in a nearby Lutheran church to celebrate our Nation's heritage of religious freedom and prayer. People prayed in English, in Hebrew, in Pali, in Piscataway, and in Islamic. In a unified voice, their prayers said there is no one way to pray.
Mr. Chairman, I pray we never return to the world of pre-1962, because in that world, in my State of Alabama and the State of North Carolina and in the United States, the constitutional rights of American citizens were consistently violated by State law and local ordinance. Until the Court acted in the late fifties and the Congress in the middle sixties, the most precious rights of American citizens were systematically violated by States like mine.
In a lesser way, as I grew up in public school in Alabama, I had imposed upon me devotionals that didn't do me much harm because they were just like what I heard in Baptist Sunday school, but they were devotionals that were so “Baptistic” or “Methodistic" in their doctrine, that were imposed, the devotionals, the prayers, on public school children in my State, that I fear me we did violate the first amendment rights of some of my neighbors who were Jews or who had some other faith. And I hope we do not see fit to return to that day by the passage of this amendment.
We feel that religious instruction is the province of the church and of the home and not the province of the Government. It is the