A fortnightly report of developments in religion
For the vacationing Supreme Court it was a summer set aside for trips abroad (Chief Justice Warren), for the August convention of the American Bar Association (Justice White), or for merely puttering around the back yard (Justice Black). Meanwhile, the war of words set off by the court’s June 25 ruling on New York school prayers rankled in the U. S. religious community and even set churchmen at odds with each other.
Protestants were split over the ruling in which the court by a six-to-one majority declared unconstitutional the state of New York’s recommended use of a 22-word interfaith prayer composed by its Board of Regents. Baptist leaders generally applauded the decision, with the notable exception of Billy Graham, while a number of other denominational leaders came out strongly against it, including theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike.
Evangelical opinions were mixed, their main agreement lying in expressed fear that the ruling indicates a trend toward secularization of society. Some were gratified that a blow had been struck at a least-common-denominator type of religion. As the days passed, however, support grew for the view that the position on church-state separation implicit in the Supreme Court action was—as CHRISTIANITY TODAY had editorialized (July 20, 1962)—both defensible and commendable.
But would the ruling be improperly exploited by irreligious secularists? What would the Supreme Court say about Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools? Did the Constitution need an explanatory amendment on church-state matters?
These were some of the questions that provided fuel for the fire aroused by the June ruling.
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