Books by Ken Ross

Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Ordained minister Murray and writer-scholar Ross (Compassionate Capitalism, not reviewed) look back on the circumstances of the Supreme Court decision to abolish school prayer and advocate its reinstitution. In 1963, in Murray v. Curlett, the Supreme Court abolished the practice of school prayer. The suit was brought by Madalyn Murray O'Hair on the part of her son, coauthor of this book William J. Murray. O'Hair, self-styled leader of a far left atheist movement, was one of those rootin'-tootin' malcontents who appeared like poltergeists in the '50s and early '60s to knock over the well- ordered ideological furniture. She resembles a weird amalgam of Lee Harvey Oswald and his own mother, and in 1960 tried to defect to the Soviet Union but wasn't taken seriously. Later that year, when she protested the practice of morning prayer at her son's public school, she was, and basked in almost instant media glare. Murray and Ross ably present a slightly dumbed-down yet original view of the case's historical context, going back to 17th-century England. They argue that the phrase ``separation of church and state'' does not appear in the First Amendment and note that Jefferson used the phrase only in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, written when he was president. The Supreme Court decision, in their eyes, actually ``skewed'' historical evidence in the service of creeping secularism. All of this falls into the range of well-presented interpretation of history and valid opinion. The book breaks down in offering school prayer as one of the answers to what the authors perceive as the country's spiritual dilemma, and ultimately is most interesting for its portrait of the flamboyant Madalyn Murray O'Hair. A curious, well-researched book that yet makes a simplistic connection between school prayer and America's spiritual regeneration. Ultimately unconvincing. (Author tour) Read full book review >