Last updated on: 6/5/2008 3:00:00 PM PST
Would Amending the US Constitution to Allow for a Moment of Silence or Voluntary Prayer in Public School Undermine the First Amendment?
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote the following in its Mar. 11, 2002 position paper "Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer or Moment of Silence":
"[I]f adopted the amendment [allowing school prayer or moment of silence in public schools] would allow public officials, including teachers, to dictate how, when and where school children and others should pray, thus undermining one of the core values of the First Amendment: the complete freedom of religious conscience through the nonestablishment of religion."
Mar. 11, 2002 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Freedom From Religion Foundation's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, wrote in a 1995 paper posted online, titled "The Case Against School Prayer":
"Proponents of so-called 'voluntary' school prayer amendment... are admitting that our secular Constitution prohibits organized prayers in public schools. Otherwise, why would an amendment to our U.S. Constitution be required?...
The radical school prayer amendment would negate the First Amendment's guarantee against government establishment of religion. Most distressing, it would be at the expense of the civil rights of children, America's most vulnerable class. It would attack the heart of the Bill of Rights, which safeguards the rights of the individual from the tyranny of the majority."
1995 - Freedom From Religion Foundation
The American Jewish Committee's (AJC), Legislative Director and Counsel, Richard T. Foltin, stated in a July 1, 2005 press release titled "AJC Strongly Opposes Proposed 'Religious Freedom Amendment'":
"By condoning prayer in public schools, allowing virtually unrestricted religious displays on public property, and permitting a variety of other government endorsements of religion, [the Religious Freedom Amendment] would undermine our vital First Amendment rights...
Moreover, this amendment is simply unnecessary. We already have a Religious Freedom Amendment — the First Amendment to the Constitution — which safeguards truly voluntary religious expression, while, as the Supreme Court confirmed... standing as a bulwark to government placing its coercive authority behind religious perspectives."
July 1, 2005 - American Jewish Committee (AJC)
Congressmen Ernest Istook (R-OK) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) wrote in their Dec. 6, 2004 "Questions and Answers" paper related to the Religious Freedom Amendment (RFA):
"The Religious Freedom Amendment (House Joint Resolution 78) corrects court actions and trends which have suppressed religious expression; it will permit student-initiated prayers in public schools. The RFA retains the First Amendment's safeguards against official religion, and keeps school prayer voluntary, but protects it just as other forms of free speech are protected."
Dec. 6, 2004 - Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.
First Things stated in its Feb. 1995 editorial titled "The Debate About a School Prayer Amendment Is Not About School Prayer":
"[A]n amendment is needed [because]... it is a necessary check upon the overreach of the imperial judiciary... The Constitution does not say that prayer in the public schools is unconstitutional, therefore it is not unconstitutional... apparently it will take an amendment to make that clear...
Voluntary school prayer is not a constitutionally forbidden 'establishment' of religion, unless one believes that government policies that favor religion constitute an establishment of religion. Regrettably, the Supreme Court has at times indicated that it believes just that...
That was not the view of those who wrote and ratified the Constitution, and it is not the view of the overwhelming majority of Americans today. It is the Court that has promulgated an eccentric view of religion, and it is the Constitution that provides the means for preventing the Court from imposing that view on the society, namely, a constitutional amendment."
Feb. 1995 - First Things
Concerned Women for America (CWA) stated in its Mar. 20, 1998 press release titled "Religious Freedom Amendment":
"Concerned Women for America supports a constitutional religious freedom amendment because free religious expression has been jeopardized by legal rulings in this century. As a result, public schools have grown increasingly hostile to the rights of students to express religious opinions. It is time for those who seek to persecute religious people to stop hiding behind the robes of the Supreme Court. It is time for a religious freedom amendment."
Mar. 20, 1998 - Concerned Women for America (CWA)