Constitution Essay, Research Paper
Our constitutional rights and civil liberties come into conflict with each other periodically because of certain disagreements and new issues that arise. This week a new conflict has come into play between the U.S. Constitution and ?voluntary school prayer.?
This week the House Speaker-elect, Newt Gingrich, announced his intention to immediately push for the adoption of his proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution ?relating to voluntary school prayer.? His proposal states:
?Nothing in the Constitution shall be directed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or in other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer. Neither the United States nor any State shall compose the words of any prayer to be said in public schools.? In spite of the last two sentences, if adopted the amendment would allow public officials, including teachers, to indicate how, when, and where school children and others should pray. This undermines the values of the First Amendment; the complete freedom of religious conscience. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said that officially organized prayer forcible in a school environment, even when designated as ?voluntary.?
A constitutional amendment required the approval of two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress and then of the legislatures of three-quarters of the states. Gingrich has announced his plans to hold public hearings around the country this winter and spring. He hopes to have a vote on the issue by July 1. Should it actually pass, a constitutional amendment on school prayer would mark the first time in our nations history that the original Bill of Rights would be amended, getting away from traditional American values that would set a dangerous precedent.
We do not need a school prayer amendment. Every child in the United States already has the right to pray in school on a voluntary basis, it?s called the First Amendment. It has worked so well that in spite of religious diversity, we have more religious liberty in this country than anywhere else on earth. That diversity would be endangered, not enhanced, by an amendment that would promote organized prayer. ?Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.? With these words, the framers of the Constitution established one of the central principles of American government, that religious liberty can flourish only when the state leaves religion alone.
Under the Gingrich amendment, public officials would be authorized to instruct young people into an upheld religion. Where official school prayer has been permitted, the result has not been pretty: There is an abundance of documentation about non-conforming students being called ?little atheists? by their teachers, being beaten up or subjected to taunts and classroom jokes. ?This amendment would breed religious intolerance 1.? Fifty years of Supreme Court justice has maintained a ? wall of separation between church and state? so that the United States is a model of religious freedom for the world. The fundamental principle behind the Supreme Court rulings has been that public schools may not take sides in matters of religion and may not endorse a particular religious perspective or any religion at all. Should the Bill of Rights be amended, it would be the first time in American history. And unlike the effort to pass an Equal Rights Amendment, which we supported, the school prayer amendment would remove an existing right, rather than give a right to an unprotected group.
Why are conservatives, who say they want to get the government off their backs, trying to interfere with something as personal and private as religious beliefs? The truly traditional American value is to pursue any religion, or no religion, without government interference or restraint.
1. Democratic Alliance for Action ? Bible Believers Should Oppose School Prayer.?
2. Separation of Church and State Homepage ?Will School Prayer Ammendment Work??