America, Where Are You? Part 2

The Attack on Voluntary Prayer

[A]s D. James Kennedy once pointed out, in 1935, what was the most educated nation on earth? The answer was Germany. But that didn’t prevent Auschwitz from taking place. So there is such a thing as education, where if it’s devoid of God, it is dangerous.
Jerry Newcombe

Key point: In 1962 the Supreme Court denied school children the opportunity to acknowledge God and seek His blessings for their leaders and the nation. America has been paying a heavy price for this ever since.

For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

On June 25, 1962, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Engel vs. Vitale, a case involving voluntary school prayer. In New York, the state Board of Regents had written a prayer and encouraged students to recite it in school. Participation was voluntary, but in New Hyde Park, New York, a group of students’ families took the matter to court, contending the policy violated their religious beliefs. The group was led by Steven Engel, who was Jewish. The ruling was 6 to 1 in favor of the plaintiffs, and it would have been 7 to 1 if Justice Felix Frankfurter had not suffered a career-ending stroke. Justice Byron White did not participate because he did not take his position on the court until after oral arguments had been made.

Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1958-1981

Justice Potter Stewart, the lone dissenter, did not believe the prayer was unconstitutional because the Frist Amendment prohibits Congress from establishing an official religion, not from encouraging prayer. Focusing on the Constitution itself, Stewart wrote, “I cannot see how an ‘official religion’ is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it.”

On the heels of the ruling, Erwin Griswald, former dean of the Harvard Law School, also objected to the majority’s opinion. He pointed out that the First Amendment of the US Constitution had not been violated, since Congress had made no law establishing a state religion. Neither had the State of New York, for that matter. This, he maintained, was a local matter, not a federal one. Moreover, he contended, “In a country which has a great tradition of tolerance, is it not important that minorities, who have benefited so greatly from that tolerance, should be tolerant, too?”

In a country which has a great tradition of tolerance, is it not important that minorities, who have benefited so greatly from that tolerance, should be tolerant, too?
—Erwin Griswold, former dean of the Harvard Law School, objecting to the Supreme Court’s ruling against voluntary prayer in Engel vs. Vitale

What was the prayer that so offended the majority of justices, as well as the plaintiffs? It was this:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.

The 1962 decision became the basis for other Supreme Court rulings that have further restricted school prayer. Other decisions followed after these, and they’ve affected far more than education: In and through them, “the Supreme Court gave birth to an atheistic tyranny that has bedeviled America ever since.” According to the information site, “Since the banning of school prayer, there have been a 225 percent increase in amount of children without fathers, a 343 percent rise in illegitimate births, and a 454% enlargement in the violent crime rate. These data are taken from the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, which in turn relies on statistical data collected since 1960.”

A Departure from Founding Principles

The Founders and early leaders of the United States never intended that God would be separated from government, only that government would not establish an official religion. Consider Noah Webster (1758-1843) who has been called the Father of American Scholarship and Education (also go here), or simply, the Father of American Education.

Noah Webster, the Schoolmaster of the Republic

Writing in 1788, Webster said,

In some countries the common people are not permitted to read the Bible at all. In ours, it is as common as a newspaper and in schools is read with nearly the same degree of respect.…Select passages of Scripture…may be read in schools, to great advantage.…My wish is not to see the Bible excluded from schools but to see it used as a system of religion and morality.

Returning to Engel vs. Vitale, we note that in this critical decision, the Supreme Court severed an acknowledgement of God—actually, an opportunity, not a requirement, to acknowledge Him—from the younger generation of Americans.

When a nation, in this case through its court system, kicks God out of public life, what happens? We’ve seen evidence that God steps back! We see this not only in the unraveling of American culture since the early 1960s, but also in the other two Supreme Court cases my friend Steve cited when he wrote about America’s decline.

Stay tuned!


Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About “Education” (see top image; photo credit here)

At the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Faith stands atop the Monument, with Liberty and Morality seated at the base in front of her, and Law and Education seated at the base behind her. Education benefits a nation to the greatest extent possible when it affirms each of the other four values and ideals portrayed. The National Monument to the Forefathers was dedicated on August 1, 1889.

Combatting Error with the Truth—In 5-Minute Presentations

If truth be not diffused, error will be.
Daniel Webster

Jason, a committed believer, entered his freshman year of college at a state university with a prayer that he would be able to defend his faith courageously and openly—but without being obnoxious. He enjoyed getting to know his fellow students and found that he and another incoming freshman, Steve, were both interested in restoring old cars. This point of mutual interest helped cement a strong friendship between the two, and it wasn’t long before Jason began to look for opportunities to talk to Steve about his relationship with God. One day, Jason decided simply to bring the matter up. He’d been praying for Steve and knew a few simple questions that could direct their conversation toward spiritual things.

“Hey, Steve,” Jason began, “I was wondering if you ever think much about God or spiritual things. Do you think it’s possible for people to have a relationship with God?”

“Jason, I really don’t believe in God at all.” Jason could tell Steve wasn’t offended but simply was sharing what he believed. “Honestly, I think the Bible is difficult to understand. It’s incoherent.”

“Really?” asked Jason. “That’s interesting. You know, I’d like to challenge you on that point. I’ve learned the Bible is a book with 66 major divisions written by 40 different human writers over a period of 1500 years. Despite all that, there really is amazing unity and agreement between the biblical writers. That unity points to the probability of God’s being the ultimate author. In fact, I believe God is the author, and that the Bible makes the most sense to those who know God personally. Think of the Bible as a love letter written by God to His children. Steve, your problem is mainly that you don’t know the author of the letter. You’ve been reading someone else’s mail!”

That same week at a sister school several hundred miles away, Sonya, another committed believer who also was beginning her college career, sat in class as her psychology professor attempted to shoot down the idea that the apostle Paul actually met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The professor had ridiculed Christianity and the Bible several times since the beginning of the school year and had described himself as an atheist. The idea that Paul’s life had taken a 180-degree turn because he’d met Jesus personally, he said, was ridiculous. Jesus, after all, was dead. How could he possibly have influenced Paul’s life? The professor continued, “There’s a phenomenon in psychology whereby a person who is vehemently opposed to a cause can go so overboard fighting it that he winds up embracing the very thing he opposed. I think that’s what happened to Paul.”

“Be careful, sir.” Sonya said as politely as she could. “You’re liable to become a Christian!”

These accounts are based on stories I’ve heard, and I can’t say with certainty that parallel events actually happened. Yet the accounts are instructive for us today. How many of our young people—or how many of us, for that matter—are prepared to defend what we believe?

How many of our young people—or how many of us, for that matter—are prepared to defend what we believe?

I’m not speaking just about our beliefs about God and the Bible, but also about

  • America
  • government
  • national defense
  • race relations
  • history
  • free speech
  • the faith of America’s Founders
  • the environment
  • evidence for God
  • Judeo-Christian values, including the Ten Commandments
  • the free market system
  • human relationships
  • life, and
  • morality

—to name just a few arenas where classic values are under assault today.

The above stories include what we might call “zingers”—memorable, attention-getting lines. In most debates, however, it isn’t the zinger that appears most frequently or that necessarily makes the biggest difference in the effort to win someone over. Of greater importance is the substance of one’s argument and how clearly and cohesively he or she presents it.

Where can people learn the truth about those things for which higher education and society at large have adopted a politically correct interpretation? If you haven’t already been invited, I’d like to invite you to attend Prager University.


Led by Dennis Prager, a conservative radio talk show host, Prager University is an online reservoir of information about hot-button topics. In each “course,” the conservative perspective on the topic at hand is provided. Each one is a video 5 minutes long—and at Prager U, students learn more truth in 5 minutes than is presented in many college and university classes all semester long. Moreover, Prager University is free—and its impact is worldwide!

One final point: while we began this post with illustrations about defending Christianity, Prager U does not focus specifically on defending the Christian faith. It is not a Christian organization; Dennis Prager is a devout Jew who, in and through his work, articulately defends Judeo-Christian values—the values and principles that have made America the freest and strongest nation on earth. Also, while Prager doesn’t specifically defend Christianity, he readily defends Christians and partners with them to make the strongest case for Judeo-Christian truth.

Explore and utilize Share it with others. It’s a great way to equip conservatives—and challenge liberals—with solid information.

Welcome to Prager University


Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Top image: Display of the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas