Piety in the Public School: Trends and Issues in the Relationship between Religion and the Public School in the United States

By Robert Michaelsen | Go to book overview

VIII
The Churches, the Public, and the "Wall," 1947-

"Nothing contained in this constitution shall prohibit the [public] school . . . from providing for or permitting the voluntary participation by students . . . in prayer." -- A portion of the "prayer amendment" proposed by Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen President Kennedy "did not venture a personal opinion about the merits of the Court decision [Engel]. Instead, he said that the Court has spoken and that it was the duty of all Americans, whether they agreed or not, to support the Constitutional processes. He added that everyone had a remedy to a ban on prayer in the schools, namely, 'to pray ourselves' at home and in the church, and to provide religious guidance for 'our children.' " -- New York Times, July 1, 1962

"The public schools have an obligation to help individuals develop an intellectual 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 community of faith (such as the church or synagogue) rather than the public schools." -- From a policy statement of the National Council of Churches, June 7, 1963


The High Mark of Piety

In the fifteen years following World War II Americans were more religious than ever. At least the outward signs of increasing religiosity were abundantly evident. Statistics gathered by the National Council of Churches indicated that church membership rose from 49 percent of the total population of the United States in 1940 to 63.7 percent in 1960, an all-time high in American history. According to Mr. Gallup, eight out of ten adult Americans claimed affiliation with a religious organization in 1954; over 95 percent of all adult Americans professed

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