What did the founding fathers intend by these words from the First Amendment, and how should this amendment be applied to the free exercise of religion today? In School Prayer, Robert Alley examines the history behind the writing of the religionMoreWhat did the founding fathers intend by these words from the First Amendment, and how should this amendment be applied to the free exercise of religion today? In School Prayer, Robert Alley examines the history behind the writing of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, the courts interpretations of these clauses over two centuries, and the debates in Congress over their application, especially as regards prayer in the public schools.Alley begins with an extensive analysis of the writings and actions of James Madison, described as the architect of the religion clauses and the single most important voice for religious liberty in the nations history.
Madison is viewed as a proponent of strict separation between church and state and as opposed to any form of state-sponsored religious establishment. Alley then discusses the history of protestant hegemony in the nineteenth century and the attitude of messianism as reflected in presidential pronouncements on the relation of religion to government.All this is presented as background to the debates in the latter half of our own century over the role of prayer in public schools.
Alley reviews some thirty years of congressional testimony and key Supreme Court decisions. He gives special attention to the highly controversial Engle v. White decision in 1962, which banned the recitation of a prayer composed by the New York State Board of Regents in public schools. This decision unleashed a storm of protests, which has continued to this day and has given rise to numerous congressional proposals to amend or overturn the Courts ruling.
Extensive selections from the arguments on both sides of the controversy afford the reader a firsthand look into the many deliberations surrounding this sensitive and timely matter.