The Congress hereby finds that the security and welfare of the United States require that this and future generations of American youth be insured ample opportunity for the fullest development of their intellectual capacities.…”
—College Academic Facilities
and Scholarship Act of 1962.
A far-reaching religious issue lay in the hands of Capitol lawmakers. For the first time in U. S. history, both houses of Congress had passed a bill which would include federal aid to church-related colleges for general construction purposes, with ambiguous safeguards against sectarian deployment.
Most Washington newsmen missed the significance of grants and loans for public and private colleges, however, and hardly a ripple of public protest ensued. Leading Protestant churchmen were still praising President Kennedy for his church-state “stand,” although a few observers felt that guardians of U. S. church-state separation had been caught napping.
The House and Senate bills differed in two respects. The $2, 674,000,000 Senate bill included scholarship aid for some 212,000 students in the amount of $900,000,000, while the $1,500,000,000 House measure made no scholarship provisions. Perhaps more important from the standpoint of church-state principles was the fact that the House legislation authorizes construction grants while the Senate bill would mete out long-term low-interest loans.
Democratic Senator Sam J. Ervin of North Carolina had sought to bar aid to church-related institutions by introducing an amendment which would have made all private colleges ineligible. The amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 72 to 15. Three of the 15 senators who voted “no” are Mormons (Republican Bennett of Utah and Democrats Moss of Utah and Cannon of Nevada) ...1
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