The “Prayer” Amendment

By Lynn Trapp

In 1963 in two landmark cases the Supreme Court ruled against devotionals and prayer meetings in public schools which were organized, supported, or supervised by public officials. Since that time a majority of the “devout” (see article by Leo Rogol, Feb. 3, 1972 in Truth Magazine) persons in America have been using their energies to get “God back in the schools.” As a result of this, Representative Chalmers P. Wylie has sponsored House Joint Resolution 191 which says, “Nothing contained in this Constitution shall abridge the right of persons lawfully assembled, in any, public building which is supported in whole or in part through the expenditure of public funds, to participate in nondenominational prayer.”

On the face of it this Resolution seems entirely harmless. However, a close examination will reveal some very dangerous fallacies within it.

The first fallacy is that it is impossible to put something back in the schools which is already there. The federal government has never in any instance forbidden voluntary, personal prayer. All the courts ruled against were those which were sponsored by public officials. Such a position is perfectly in line with scripture and freedom. To require prayers of a “nondenominational” nature of people is a violation of the persons freedom and conscience, something which no man or group of men have the right to do.

The second fallacy is that this amendment does not solely concern itself with public schools. The amendment does, not mention public schools or schools of any kind. Rather, it mentions all public buildings throughout the nation. The eventual effect of the amendment is that it establishes a secularized (“nondenominational”), state-approved religion which is not only accepted, but required, in public buildings. Try to imagine a greater entanglement of state and church than the one just described.

Consider also the nature of the words “lawfully assembled.” Such a statement in an amendment of this nature is at the least redundant and certainly carries certain ominous overtones. How else would anyone assemble in order to worship? Has anyone ever seen or even heard of a group assembling in a manner which is usually considered unlawful (riots, looting, etc.) opening their assembly with a prayer and closing it with a devotional song service? Just think, the men who wrote this amendment are actually the men who make our laws. I think the American public needs to take more notice as to what is going on Capitol Hill.

Just what is a public building? HJR 191 defines it as any building “which is supported in whole or in part through the expenditure of public funds.” Are church buildings “public buildings” Why not? Churches are exempt from paying taxes and yet they receive the full gamut of public police and fire protection. Not only that, but there is a concerted effort -at the highest level of government to change the meaning of public to include parochial schools in order that they may become, by simple redefinition of terms, “public schools.” The OEO is currently proposing a tuition voucher proposal for all education. One of its fundamental objectives is the redefining of the term .,public school” to embrace all schools which are nondiscriminitory in enrollment and which make financial reports available. If a church school and a church school building can be labeled “public,” then why not the church building itself? The ultimate end is that the government will be telling us what we can and cannot pray in our own church buildings. We will eventually be living under Communism or Catholicism if this amendment is not completely destroyed.

The third fallacy is that the amendment will not stop at the kind of worship which may be offered in public places. It will affect much more than that. If worship of a state approved “non-denominational” type can be offered in public buildings, cannot religious teachings of a state-approved “nondenominational” type be carried on there? Gaston D. Gogdell, Director of Organization f or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, asks an important question, “if the public schools are now to become houses of worship and agencies for teaching ii sort of newly established , nondenominational state religion, can tax support justly be withheld any longer from parochial schools?” Can it indeed?

Finally, the amendment really has nothing to do at all with true worship to God. The supporters of this amendment certainly are not concerned with such. If they are, why havent we heard any of them concern themselves with the question, “Will the King of the universe be pleased with the nondenominational prayer which will be offered up to him in the temples of secular religion which our schools and public buildings will become as a result of this proposed change in our constitution?”

This amendment came up for vote in the House on November8, 1971 and was defeated by only 28 votes. That does not mean that it is entirely dead. The supporting forces are already rallying again. Concerned Christians and Americans need to get busy writing letters to their Congressmen right now. Your freedom depends on it.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 27, pp. 10-11
May 11, 1972