NO SUCH AMENDMENT IS NEEDED by Ellen Johnson Reproduced from the _Bergen Record_, November

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NO SUCH AMENDMENT IS NEEDED by Ellen Johnson Reproduced from the _Bergen Record_, November 27, 1994. Ellen Johnson is the Northeast Representative of American Atheists, Inc. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution on voluntary school prayer has been introduced in Congress. American Atheists has always opposed the idea of organized school prayer. It was the founder of American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who initiated the 1963 Supreme Court case of Murray vs. Curlett in which the court ruled that the unison recitation of the Lord's Prayer constituted "a religious ceremony" and that religious ceremonies are not proper in the public schools where all children are required to be in attendance. No amendment was needed then and none is needed now to allow students to pray in school. The religious community refuses to acknowledge that students can pray all they want, on their own, in the schools. It instead wants government-sponsored prayer. Government-sponsored prayer can never be voluntary. Students who don't participate will stand out and be ostracized. Many children will learn a cruel lesson about thinking for themselves and social pressures because of prayer. We know that praying in churches hasn't improved society and praying in schools won't either. Separating church and state means separating fantasy from reality as a precondition for producing mentally healthy and responsible citizens. It is wrong to teach children to appeal to the supernatural to handle real-life issues instead of using reason and self- reliance. No power of any kind can replace the most wonderful problem-solving tool around, the human mind. Religionists claim that society's problems began only after the Murray vs. Curlett decision of 1963. If so, then it must also be responsible for all the heroism, charity, and lifesaving and improving medicines and technologies created since then too. Religionists claim that this is a Christian nation and the will of the majority should prevail. When it comes to our civil liberties, the majority doesn't rule and that's good -- otherwise blacks would be consigned to the backs of buses again. There is an inherent danger to our republic in using the amendment process to circumvent the power of federal courts to address constitutional claims, because it denies minority groups a forum to appeal for justice and liberty. If today's amendment involves prayer, tomorrow it could be desegregation or abortion. Part of the prayer amendment says: "Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions." This means that prayer could become required in prisons, public hospitals, and all other public institutions. The goal of conservative Christians is to turn America into a theocracy. The Bible says, "Every knee shall bow." To attain this they must capture the minds of the next generation and teach them to think religiously. That is why they want school prayer and voucher money for religious schools. American Atheists thinks that only as one nation under a secular constitution can we avoid becoming a nation ruled by majoritarian hysteria. *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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