In 1962, the Supreme Court decided Engel v. Vitale, ruling prayer in public schools unconstitutional. The high court reversed the lower court’s ruling and declared that school prayer violated the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment, which prohibits a state establishment of religion. In the wake of the decision, citizens inundated Congress with petitions concerning prayer in public schools. The records of the House Judiciary Committee for the 88th Congress contain more than 25 linear feet of petitions and correspondence expressing opinions both for and against the contentious issue. Representatives also introduced more than 140 joint resolutions to amend the Constitution to allow nonsectarian prayer in schools, as long as it was not compulsory.
On behalf of the Central Christian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Carmon Bowers wrote Emanuel Celler, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Bowers exhorted Celler to take action on legislation referred to the Judiciary Committee that would amend the Constitution to allow prayer in public schools, saying that “God still has a hand in the affairs of men and of this nation.”