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GOVERNMENT NEUTRALITY MAINTAINED IN THE CASE OF BIBLE STUDY GROUPS

Your June 6 editorial took issue with the Supreme Court's recent decision regarding religious freedom. I disagree with your editorial.

The issue is whether school officials can bar student Bible study groups from meeting on school grounds. The First Amendment protects against the establishment of religion. A threat to the First Amendment would exist if a school board actively promoted or mandated participation in a Bible study group. This does not appear to be true in either the Supreme Court case or at McKinley High School.

In both cases, students voluntarily came together to request that a Bible study group be permitted to meet on school grounds. Except for the request for the provision of a room, the students asked for nothing from the government.

The provision of a room does not, by itself, actively involve the government in the establishment of religion just as the provision of a room to a chess club does not involve the government in the establishment of a chess federation. In addition, there does not appear to be any evidence that students have attempted to force their beliefs onto other students. If such a thing occurred and the school board stood idly by, that would violate the First Amendment. No such thing has occurred.

When I was a boy living in New York City, grade school assembly day always included a reading from the Old Testament. Some students were Chinese who believed in neither Judaism nor Christianity. The assembly day quotation from the Bible violated their First Amendment rights.

Nothing of that sort was involved in either the Supreme Court or the McKinley High School case. It is important to remember that the framers of the First Amendment sought to guard against government intervention on behalf of certain religious groups at the expense of others. As long as government neutrality is maintained, the First Amendment is not violated.

ROBERT KANNER
Buffalo

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