Cambridge Schools Postpone Decision On Compliance With State Prayer Law

Cambridge schools will not implement the new state law on voluntary prayers in school until the school committee meets tomorrow night.

Cambridge School Superintendent William C. Lannon and his staff decided yesterday "not to comply with the new law until receiving direction from the school committee tomorrow night," Bert Giroux, director of public relations for the city schools, said yesterday.

Civil Rights

Meanwhile, Jon Roberts, executive director of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (CLUM), said the CLUM will file a complaint this week, challenging the law as a violation of the First Amendment.

The CLUM will also ask a single judge of the state Supreme Court to block implementation of the law while the full seven judge panel studies its constitutionality.

Roberts said that if procedures go as normal, the law could be revoked in June. "When you look at the case law, it's a sitting duck," he added.

The new law, signed in November by Gov. Edward J. King, requires public schools to allow a student volunteer to offer a daily prayer. Students not wishing to participate may leave the room.

Damned if You Do

Alice Wolf, a school committee member, said yesterday several committee members "have grave concerns about the law, but they also have grave concerns about not obeying the law."

"It seems confusing because we have the federal government saying one thing, and the state government saying another," Bill Mangan '66, a house-master at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, said yesterday.

The Supreme Court abolished compulsory prayer in public schools more than 15 years ago in a case in Texas.

Sara Mae Berman, another school committee member, said yesterday she believes the new law is unconstitutional, and added she wants a court decision for it before she can support it.

Glenn Koocher '71, another school committee member, also said he cannot vote to implement the law unless the Supreme Court first approves it. "I think legislators may have made it loose enough so that it will stand a Constitutional test," he said.

Koocher added he is not sure how the other school committee members will vote.

Church and State