the eighth time in 43 years, Sen. Robert Byrd (D—W.Va.) has proposed
that the U.S. Congress adopt a constitutional amendment allowing
voluntary prayer in public schools. Byrd introduced the amendment in
the U.S. Senate April 27.
"The importance of prayer is recognized by people of faith in nearly all of the world's religions," Byrd said, according to the Daily Mail newspaper. "Yet, in America, prayer is increasingly barred from public life,” based on the argument that it violates the First Amendment."
Byrd believes the nation's courts pay too much attention to the clause in the First Amendment that says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," and disregards the second part about "prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."
"I believe that, in ruling after ruling, the U.S. courts have been moving perilously close to prohibiting the free exercise of religion in America,” he reportedly said.
Byrd said the "ingrained predisposition" in the courts against religious or spiritual expressions is contrary to the intent of the country's founding fathers. Byrd discussed this point with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
"It seems to me that any prohibition of voluntary prayer in school violates the right of our school children to practice freely their religion," the senator reportedly said. "Any child should be free to pray to God, of his or her own volition, whether at home, in church or at school."
Byrd also said that voluntary school prayer would help in "getting the country back on the right track,” reported the Daily Mail.
The amendment will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. The Supreme Court struck down prayer in schools in 1962.