I am convinced that no liberty is more essential to the continued vitality of the free society which our Constitution guarantees than is the religious liberty protected by the Free Exercise Clause explicit in the First Amendment and imbedded in the Fourteenth.

—Potter Stewart

The lone dissenter in the Supreme Court’s disavowal of public school devotions, Justice Potter Stewart scolded his brethren on the bench for according to the Establishment Clause “a meaning which neither the words, the history, nor the intention of the authors of that specific constitutional provision even remotely suggests.” He predicted “many situations where legitimate claims under the Free Exercise Clause will run into head-on collision with the Court’s insensitive and sterile construction of the Establishment Clause.”

True to Stewart’s forecast, the two clauses collided head-on in thousands of classrooms all over the country this month. The result was largely compliance with the court’s decision that “the practices at issue and the laws requiring them are unconstitutional.” But there were still many schools where prayers and Bible reading echoed down the corridors during opening exercises.

At least eleven states have issued official statements allowing devotional exercises to continue or leaving the decision to local jurisdictions: New Hampshire, Idaho, Delaware, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama (where Bible reading is mandatory).

Defiance in the South was not surprising in view of that area’s uncomfortable position following other Supreme Court decisions during the past decade. The measure of official opposition in the North had not been predicted.

The first legal action to halt defiance of the Supreme Court decision came in Hawthorne, New Jersey, where the state attorney general filed suit against a school board which voted retention of devotions.

In Tallahassee, Florida, the State Supreme Court is hearing new arguments prior to reconsidering whether a 1925 Bible reading law is constitutional. The reconsideration had been ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The state attorney general’s brief argued that it would be just as unconstitutional to prohibit voluntary religious exercises in the school as it would be to require them.

“Moments of meditation” are being used in some states as a substitute for prayer. In a few, “inspirational” material taken from history or literature has been added to the school day. There are differences of opinion as to whether it is proper to recite a stanza of the National Anthem, which recognizes trust in God (Illinois Governor Otto Koerner vetoed a bill that would have permitted public school teachers to lead daily recitations of the four stanzas).

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Here and there local school boards defied both the U. S. Supreme Court and state educational directives. At least a dozen school boards in central Pennsylvania voted to retain devotional exercises.

At Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, students gathered off campus before the opening bell and had a brief Bible reading and prayer session. A group of churches in Montpelier, Vermont, began holding ten-minute worship services each morning for public school students. In Newport, Kentucky, some students staged a protest demonstration “because adults haven’t put up a fight.”

The lack of a more serious battle baffles some observers. Reaction to the Board of Regents’ decision in 1962 had been considerably more intense, despite the fact that the issue in that case was much narrower and more explicit. Why church leaders and the public at large took the broader 1963 decision more calmly deserves nomination for the mystery of the year.

According to established procedure, all U. S. courts decide cases by interpretation of existing law. It is fair to assume, however, that the Supreme Court kept a sensitive ear tuned to public opinion during its study of public school devotions. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., in his printed opinion on the case announced and distributed June 17, 1963, quoted “the policy statement recently drafted by the National Council of the Churches of Christ.” The statement, attributed to a story which appeared in the Washington Post May 25, actually was a committee draft prepared for presentation to the NCC General Board during the first week in June, but released to the press beforehand. The proposed pronouncement produced the most intense board debate in years. Much of the statement, including that portion quoted by Brennan, had to be revised considerably prior to passage.

Brennan, to support his contention that “the notion of a ‘common core’ litany or supplication offends many deeply devout worshippers who do not find clearly sectarian practices objectionable,” quoted the following from the committee draft: “… neither true religion nor good education is dependent upon the devotional use of the Bible in the public school program.… Apart from the constitutional questions involved, attempts to establish a ‘common core’ of religious beliefs to be taught in public schools for the purpose of indoctrination are unrealistic and unwise. Major faith groups have not agreed on a formulation of religious beliefs common to all. Even if they had done so, such a body of religious doctrine would tend to become a substitute for the more demanding commitments of historic faiths.”

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The corresponding section in the board-approved pronouncement read as follows: “… neither true religion nor good education is dependent upon the devotional use of the Bible in the public school program.… While both our tradition and the present temper of our nation reflect a preponderant belief in God as our Source and our Destiny, nevertheless attempts to establish a ‘common core’ of religious beliefs to be taught in public schools have usually proven unrealistic and unwise. Major faith groups have not agreed on a formulation of religious beliefs common to all. Even if they had done so, such a body of religious doctrine would tend to become a substitute for the more demanding commitments of historic faiths.”

In the churches, grass-roots action has contrasted in some cases rather sharply with advice from top ecclesiastical echelons. The Washington (D. C.) Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church, for instance, “took exception” by a vote of 70 to 67 to the General Assembly’s stand against public school devotions. A resolution by the presbytery stated that “the loss of the reading of the Bible and the use of prayer in our public schools appears to be a concession to forces opposed to the Church of Jesus Christ.”

Court Calendar

Seven cases involving obscenity—three from California and one each from Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and New York—are up for review before the U. S. Supreme Court as it reconvenes this month. One of the California cases concerns Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, declared obscene in a trial in which Dr. Raymond Lindquist, senior minister of Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Clarence E. Crowther, senior Episcopal chaplain at the University of California at Los Angeles, testified against the novel.

Other cases scheduled to be heard include a conviction for unlawful assembly of ten Negro and white clergy “Freedom Riders” (see News, May 10 issue).

Freedom of religion is the issue in the case of a Minnesota woman, Mrs. Owen Jenison, who refused to serve on a jury and was held in contempt. Mrs. Jenison cites Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged”) as grounds for her refusal.

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A Sunday blue law case before the court contests the conviction of an Ohio businessman.

Canada: Two Nations Or One?

A series of bombings in Quebec during the past year has marked an upsurge of French Canadian nationalism unknown since 1837. One man died, another was permanently maimed, and the entire province underwent a siege of fear before tough action by police quelled the violence—at least for the time being.

The violence has been blamed on an extremist group, Le Front Libre de Quebec (FLQ), but their cause is shared by many others who insist on a peaceful course. The cause is to revise the operation of the confederation so that in both theory and practice Canadians will recognize that their country really consists of two nations, French and English, more or less independent of each other.

In one sense this feeling of nationalism and separation has emerged only recently. The basis for the feeling, however, has never been very far below the surface. The departure of the late Premier Maurice Duplessis from the Quebec political scene in 1959 seems to have sparked the movement, for no one equally provincial and French Canadian has appeared to take his place, nor has anyone succeeded in gaining such control over the French Canadian’s thinking since his death. However, politicians of both the Union National Party (to which Duplessis belonged) and the Liberal Party have exploited the demands of nationalism to win votes and force the federal government to grant Quebec special concessions on such matters as taxation.

Principal cause of the rise of nationalism would seem to be the French Canadian’s frustration and humiliation at the fact that Quebec has fallen under control of Anglo-American capital and Anglo-Canadian administration. Canadians who do not know Quebec have tended to disregard French Canadian feelings and outlook, and many local companies depending upon Ontario or U. S. capital have often disregarded the French, and sometimes even the English Canadians of Quebec, in appointments to the highest positions. Furthermore, discriminatory treatment accorded to French Canadians in other provinces has hardly helped to strengthen the bonds of Anglo-French cooperation.

There have been some mitigating reasons for this, the most important being education. The educational system in Quebec is divided into two main confessional sections, Roman Catholic and (nominal) Protestant. The Roman Catholic tendency to stress religion, the classics, and the like has not encouraged technical training at highest scientific levels in science, engineering, and administration. This has caused problems for the French Canadian, as have his rather conservative ideas on investment.

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Repeatedly the question has arisen: Is this nationalism fostered by the Roman Catholic Church? There is no simple answer.

Recently a national magazine, MacLean’s, published in both its French and English editions an account of an allegedly ecclesiastically inspired secret movement, L’Ordre de Jacques Cartier, whose objective was said to be the stimulation of French-Canadian nationalism and even separation from the rest of Canada. Some of those named have since publicly denied any connection with the order.

At the same time one must recognize that some of the Roman Catholic clergy, often trained under Abbé Groulx, a strong nationalist at the Université de Montréal, are vigorously anti-British. On the other hand, ever since the Quebec Act of 1772, the clergy have generally stood by the British connection as one of their bulwarks against the American concept of separation of church and state. More concrete evidence is necessary, therefore, before one may say that the movement is ecclesiastically motivated.

One reason for doubting the church’s dominance is that while some of the “separatistes” show themselves loyal sons of the Roman church, others take a rather anticlerical position. La Mouvement Laïque, fighting for a non-confessional educational system, seems to have connections with some of the four separatist groups. In fact, in one of the Quebec universities, so the story goes, the motto of the nationalists is: “Get the priests first and then the English.” This would hardly appeal to the clerical authorities.

What are the effects of this development? Politicians may be opening a Pandora’s box. The federal government has appointed a Royal Commission on Bi-culturalism to study the problems and suggest remedies for the real inequities. At the same time, some English-speaking Quebecers, both individuals and corporations, doubtful of the future, are beginning to liquidate their assets and move their money to other places. Not long ago a business leader in Montreal said privately that some European and American investors had begun to do likewise. Even some Eskimos in the far north, who have recently been handed over to the provincial government’s care, reportedly plan to move west from Quebec.

What lies ahead? At the present moment separatism would seem to be weak. Nationalism, however, is strong, and unless dealt with adequately might well turn to separatism. This means that both English-speaking Canadians and American investors must awake to the situation as it now exists. If they do not, the outcome may well be the distintegration of Canada as a nation, with Quebec going its own way. What would be the result for Protestantism is anybody’s guess, but one needs little imagination to prophesy that it would find its road being made very rough and difficult.

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Prayer Or Meditation?

The Japanese government’s first ceremony in remembrance of the country’s war dead was carried out amidst some confusion as to its religious significance. In reply to one Christian churchman’s protest, a government spokesman had said that “the mokuto of this ceremony is not to be done as a religious rite.” Some Christians were unconvinced, however, and continued to insist that mokuto means a religious act of prayer. Their pleas to substitute mokuso (silent meditation) for mokuto went unheeded.

Government officials who spoke at the ceremony, held at Hibiya Park adjacent to the emperor’s residence in Tokyo, used a typical Buddhistic phrase, meifuku o inoru, meaning to pray for the repose of the souls of the dead. Mrs. Kayo Katsumata, representative of the war-bereaved families, ended her address with, “Souls in heaven, sleep peacefully,” as if she were talking to living persons.

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