Alton Evening Telegraph from Alton, Illinois on June 20, 1963 · Page 10
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Alton Evening Telegraph from Alton, Illinois · Page 10

Alton, Illinois
Issue Date:
Thursday, June 20, 1963
Page 10
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PAGE TEN ALTON EVENING TELEGRAPH THURSDAY, JUNE 20,1963 Bible Case Ends Long Dispute By JAMBS MABLOW Associated Press News Analyst WASHINGTON (AP) - Th Supreme Court's decision thi week—forbidding states to requir Bible-reading or recital of prayer Jn public schools—climaxed a Issue which had been an issu before there was a Constitution The court arrived at its ruling in a long, around-about way ove almost 100 years. Putting thi week's decision together with pre vious decisions of the court, this is what it all means: Government can't support reli gion. Therefore, no state can require religious exercises of any kind in a public school nor can it permit use of school property for such exercises. A system of public school education did not really begin in this country until about the 1830s. In the colonies education was almost entirely under private control, frequently by the dominant Protestant groups. In 1786, one year before the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, an architect of the First Amendment a year later, blocked an attempt in Virginia to provide tax funds for the teaching of religion in the schools there. First Amendment f The First Amendment said "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." But the amendement didn't say states couldn't pass such a law. Then the federal government got the power to tell states they must keep separate from religion with adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868. It said: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." This meant protection for the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the First Amendment. Yet, over the years a number of states required religious exercises in the public schools, or left the question to local communities to settle. This week's decision will probably affect a majority of the states. The court started in 1872—four years after the adoption of the 14th Amendment—down the road which finally led, after many turns, to what happened this week. That year it refused to get involved in a dispute over property between two branches of the Presbyterian Church. The court said religious bodies would be subverted if they could get secular courts to settle their differences. Then there was a question: could Indians use money, their own but held in trust for them by the federal government, to pay their tuition in religious schools? The court said yes because to say no would infringe upon their religious freedom. In 1879 the court upheld Hie right of a state to ban plural marriages by Mormons. The decision was historic. It said: While states may not interfere with mere "reli- gious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices." Over the years there seemed to be no end to the variety of issues. Students who went to the Un versity of California and, unde state law, had to take militarj training, objected that it was con Irary to their religious beliefs. Th court overruled them. It made a point which had grea significance later. It said the stu dents had no legitimate objectify under the Constitution becaiisi they hadn't been compelled to gc to that state school and could hav gone elsewhere. Since they chose to go to that one, they had t< comply with the state law tha applied to that one. Yet the court upheld the righ of children of Jehovah's Witnesses o refuse to take part in a public school salute to the flag require ment. The court here upheld the children, saying the requiremen nfringed upon their free exercise if religion. How could this be, in •iew of the Cnlifornia decision? In this case, the court said, the hildren had to go to the public chools and the schools had no ight to require a flag-salute con rary to their religious views. But in several memorable deci- ions, starting in 1947, the court egan moving toward this week's ecision. It said parents Living in a town /here they sent their children to Ionian Catholic schools could be eimbursed by the town for the ransportation costs on these rounds: That the town (state) was not ontributing to the support of the chools but was simply helping arents get their children to the chools. If this looked as if the ourt was breaking down the wall eparating church and state, it asn't. In 1949 it banned a system in hich religious teachers visited a chool weekly to give religious struction to children who wanted . Those who didn't were released om taking part. This was the o-called "released-time" idea. The court banned it as violation : the First Amendment's prohibi- on against establishment of reli- on. The reason: the religious struction was given in tax-sup- orted schools to aid a religious roup spread its faith. But then the court, in another ase, said it was all right for hildren to be given time off from chool to get religious instruction omewhere off the school prem- es. The court ruled here: "The irst Amendment does not say lat in every and all respects here shall be a separation of lurch and state." Last year the court logically ollowed the course it had been aking by forbidding New York to equire public school children to ecite a prayer composed by the chool board, even though children 'ho didn't want to take part could iave the room. Then this week came the biggest uling of all: the court said states ouldn't require Bible-reading or rayer recital in public schools. RETURN TRIP DENISON, Iowa (ffl — Wayne oleman, a Denison car dealer, rove to Omaha to deliver a car, ut a friend forgot a promise to ive him back home. So, Coleman went to a used- ar auction, bought the first auto ut up for sale, and drove home time for his daughter's high chool graduation exercises. 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