Senate Defeats School-Prayer Bill
Washington--The Senate, by a vote of 62 to 36, last week defeated a bill to strip the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts of jurisdiction in school-prayer cases. It was the most lopsided defeat for school-prayer advocates in the Senate since the start of the Reagan Administration.
A coalition of Republicans and Democrats opposed the legislation,which was sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina. One unusual exchange during the debate on the measure pitted Senator Helms against Senator Barry Goldwater, Republican of Arizona, who more of-ten than not sides with Senator Helms on major issues:
Senator Goldwater: I am a little surprised that the Senator from North Carolina decided to outlaw the Supreme Court from our life. I think this is unconstitutional, even though I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to be. I have as much interest in prayer as anyone, although probably I do not use it as much as I should.
The Senator is beginning to get into areas now that are frankly none of our business. As the Senator was inferring, in my state I have 19 Indi-an tribes. Every one of them practices a different religion. I have Indian tribes that believe in legend. I have Indian tribes that worship gods that live up in the forests. I have Indian tribes that believe in the stars.
I do not think it is right for this Congress to tell anybody how they should pray. I believe they should be allowed to pray in any doggone way they please.
I just wanted to say to my friend from North Carolina, I am really kind of surprised that he would write this bill. I would have been ashamed of it.
Senator Helms: I am a little surprised at my friend from Arizona, because he is describing Article III of the Constitution.
All this bill does, I say to the Senator, if he reads it--and I am certainly not ashamed of it--all this bill does is give the Congress an opportunity to vote on the question of Article III of the Constitution of the United States, which bestows upon Congress the right and authority to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in whatever manner the Congress feels the Supreme Court has exceeded its authority.
They call it 'court-stripping.' My friend Sam Ervin [the former Senator from North Carolina] did not agree with me on the issue of prayer. In one of the last conversations I had with him, he said, 'Jesse, you are doing fine, but get off that prayer business.' He agreed with the Senator from Arizona.
But he said, 'Your approach is correct--the implementation of Article III of the Constitution.'
To say that it is unconstitutional to implement the Constitution puzzles me.