From a Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON, June 19.
CONSIDERABLE resentment has been aroused throughout the United States by the Supreme Court's ruling on Monday that the use of the " Our Father " and the Bible at devotional exercises in state schools was unconstitutional.
Representatives of Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches have emphasised that the decision underlines the importance of the home and the church, but Senator Thurmond of South Carolina, as well as the one judge who issued a dissenting judgment, Justice Stewart, said that it represented "the establishment of a religion of secularism."
The judgMent was handed down by a majority of eight to one. The dissenting judge, Justice Stewart, is an Episcopalian. The majority judges include three Presbyterians, one Catholic and one Jew.
The court was dealing with two cases on appeal, and took them together because of their similarity. In one, a woman and her son who described themselves as atheists objected to a Baltimore school regulation which ensured that 10 verses of the Bible, or the "Our Father", or both. opened each day's lessons at the state schools. Here children could be excused at the written request of their parents.
In the second, two Unitarians attacked a Pennsylvania statute providing that "at least ten verses" from the Bible should be read at the beginning of school each day. The significance of the decision is this: it is not what is recited that counts, but the fact that the recitation is of a religious character. This removes the ambiguity which arose after the "Regents' Prayer" decision in New York last year, when many people argued that only this particular prayer had been held unconstitutional.
In the majority judgment, Justice Clark based his argument on the first Amendment to the Constitution which says that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", and stated that "in the relationship between man and religion the state is committed to a position of neutrality."
For this he, and his colleagues were described by Senator Ellcnder of Louisana as "eight silly old men". More reasoned objections came from Justice Stewart, who said in his dissenting judgment that "a refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as a realisation of state neutrality, but
rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism."
The court went to considerable lengths to emphasise that religion has traditionally played a large role in the United States, but this is not likely to satisfy its many critics, some of whom are reported to be gathering ammunition for a new attack, and seeking a change in the first Amendment,
OBSERVERS F & 0 MEETING
FWE Catholic observers have been appointed by the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity to attend the Faith and Order World Conference to be held in Montreal, July 12 to 26.
They are Father Godfrey Dickmann, 0.S.B., of the United States; Fr. Gregory Baum, O.S.A., of Canada: Fr. Jan Groot, of the Netherlands; Fr. George Tavard. A.A., and Fr. Bernard Lambert of France.
Priest murdered in Vietnam
FR. PETER NGUYEN QUOC BONG. 47, has been killed by machine gun fire as he returned to his parish of Luong Son from one of his mission stations about 150 miles east of Saigon.
His attackers are believed to be Communist Vietcong guerrillas. They ambushed his car, killing him outright and wounding his driver.
Fr. Bong belonged to Nhalrang diocese. A native of Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam, he was ordained in 1942. He had studied abroad and was a seminary professor before becoming a parish priest about a year ago.
Civil Servants unite
About 100 government officials, including Catholics and members of seven other major Christian Churches, met at the University of Melbourne to set up an organization to promote Christian principles in public service.