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Letter Opposing School Prayer Amendment

Letter Opposing School Prayer Amendment/tiles/non-collection/c/c_050imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


In 1962, the Supreme Court decided Engel v. Vitale, ruling that prayer in public schools was unconstitutional. W.J. Isbell, Jr., of the Alabama Baptist State Convention wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Emanuel Celler in opposition to H.J. Res. 693, also known as the Becker Amendment, after New York Representative Frank Becker. Becker introduced it in September 1963 in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling. The Becker Amendment sought to amend the Constitution to allow “offering, reading from, or listening to prayers or biblical scriptures, if participation therein is on a voluntary basis, in any governmental or public school institution, or place.” In the letter, Isbell asserted that the 1st Amendment already protected the freedom to pray in school. “Leave the First Amendment as it is,” Isbell told Celler. “It gives me the freedom to worship as I desire and the freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. This I am doing.”

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