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Foreword: Public Prayers in Public Schools, 77 Harvard Law Review 62 (1963)


Operating, as has recently been its wont, on a not-with-a-whimper-but- a-bang theory of judicial timing, the Supreme Court, in June 1962, closed out its 1961 Term by announcing that recitation of the New York Regents' Prayer – "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country" – as a regular part of the daily opening exercises of a public school was unconstitutional. Since the prayer, as the Court viewed it, was an official establishment of religion, the fact that participation was not required could not operate to validate it. One year after Engel v. Vitale dispatched the Regents' Prayer, the Court, in School Dist. v. Schempp, wound up the 1962 Term by administering a similar coup de grâce to recitations of the Lord's Prayer and of Bible passages, which were part of the opening exercises in certain Pennsylvania and Maryland public schools.

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