City to Ignore School Prayer Statute

'Let Them Sue,' Superintendent Says

The Cambridge public schools will ignore a new state law requiring schools to offer a period of voluntary prayer at the beginning of each day, superintendent of schools William Lannon told the school committee last night.

The school committee postponed a final vote on the matter until next week, and Lannon said teachers would not ask for student volunteers to lead prayers in the interim as the law requires, because he expected federal courts to find the recently passed state law unconstitutional.

"If we implement the law, and then there's an injunction, it's a confusing signal. We tell the children they can pray on Monday, and then two days later they can't because a bunch of adults can't make up their minds," Lannon said.

The school committee, which will have the final say on the issue next week, appears evenly split--three members argued against enforcing the law, three in favor, and the committee's chairman, Cambridge Mayer Francis H. Duehay '55 said last night he didn't "have enough facts" to vote on the issue yet.

Prayers in school, even if voluntary, could be "very uncomfortable" to students who do not wish to participate, school committee member Sara Mae Berman said. "We may also be violating the rights of certain teachers for whom calling for a prayer may be a violation of their religious practices," she said.


Halls of Glory

Other councillors said they objected to provisions of the law that allowed non-religeous students to wait in the corridors while prayers were being said.

"In a system where we're trying to reduce security problems, I don't like the thought of all those kids running out into the halls," Duehay said.

"Students have the right to pray," school committee member Henrietta Attles said. "The silent meditation period they have now just does not give students a chance to really pray," she added.

In other cities and towns across the Bay State, school systems were reported divided on enforcing the prayer statute. Lannon said Newton officials were also ignoring the plan, adding "those who implement the law have as much chance of being sued as those who don't."

At Cambridge's Rindge and Latin High School yesterday morning, students in several classrooms spent home room period debating the constitutionality of the prayer period.