JULY 25, 1947
CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, N.B., Thursday—I have been sent an article answering the criticism which was made by the Northern Baptist Convention in regard to a recent decision of the Supreme Court. By a decision of 5 to 4, the court validated the use of tax funds by the state of New Jersey to reimburse parents for bus transportation paid by them for conveying their children to a religious school, notwithstanding the fact that New Jersey provides free public schools for the use of all of its children and free transportation thereto.
The point of the article, as I understand it, is that neither this group nor any other group should question a decision handed down by the Supreme Court. It is perfectly obvious, of course, that such a decision is the law of the land as long as it stands. But the Supreme Court has been known to reverse itself. Reversals have been brought about by new cases and new arguments, or sometimes, by a change in justices.
After all, though the Supreme Court is made up of learned lawyers and patriotic citizens, its members are still subject to human failings, like all human beings. And when a decision is as close as 5 to 4, it seems to me that the citizens of the United States have a right to think it over carefully and decide whether they agree with it or not. If they do not agree with it, then they should certainly bring the weight of public opinion to bear upon future legislation which might cause a change of mind in the Supreme Court.
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I believe in freedom of conscience and freedom of religious belief, but I do not advocate a change in our old-time theory of division between church and state. We have a right to send our children to private schools or to religious schools of any denomination. But such schools should be on an entirely different basis from the public schools, which are free to all children.
Making any religious school the same as our public schools seems to me to change our fundamental idea of the right to worship as we choose, and the right of our children to receive free education without interference with their religious beliefs. I have been somewhat troubled lately as to whether this old safeguard is slipping away and might lead to a point where there would be bad feeling between religious groups in our country. That is something which we wish to avoid, if possible.