Published January 1995 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd In Behalf of Voluntary School Prayer
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America - part of our "Bill of Rights" — declares, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."
That passage was explicitly written into our Bill of Rights at the appeal of Baptist ministers in Virginia, whose own religious liberties had been officially penalized before the American Revolution by Colonial officials.
Unfortunately, since the early 1960's, opponents of all religion have turned that passage of the First Amendment on its head to prohibit the free exercise of religion in our public life and, particularly, to expunge any expression of religious faith from our public schools.
This movement has even gone so far as to deny students the opportunity of having prayer at their high school graduations.
Against that background, should we be surprised to witness nationwide rising drug abuse among our children, rampant teenage sexual promiscuity, children murdering children, gangs of teenage thugs terrorizing their neighborhoods, and a pervading moral malaise among youth in both our inner cities and our suburbs'?
In an effort to restore something of a spiritual balance to our public schools, I have introduced a joint Congressional resolution to propose an Amendment to the Constitution clarifying the intent of the Constitution with regard to public school prayer.
My amendment is not an effort to require or to deny voluntary prayer in schools. My amendment is an effort to make clear that the words that the Constitution uses with regard to religious freedom do not mean that voluntary prayer is prohibited from our public schools or public school activities.
In short, I hope to end a three-decades-long "tyranny of the minority" in denying to the majority of school children in our country the slightest vestige of the exercise of a liberty otherwise guaranteed by the Constitution — the right of children in our public school system to voluntarily pray in our public schools and their right to voluntarily pray at public school activities.
January 25, 1995