Religion: Breakfast in Washington

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In an assembly room of Washington's Mayflower Hotel one morning last week gathered a group of 600. The President of the United States was there. So were the Vice President, the Chief Justice of the United States, Cabinet members, Congressmen, diplomats, businessmen. They ate a sturdy breakfast (grapefruit, scrambled eggs, sausage, ham, hominy grits and gravy). Then the chairman of the meeting, Republican Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas, called order, and the annual prayer breakfast of the International Council for Christian Leadership got down to its purpose.

"This morning," said Baptist Carlson, "we are here to renew our faith and our commitment to God." In the next half-hour, half a dozen notables rose to their feet. Wisconsin Senator Alexander Wiley, a Lutheran, read from the First Psalm ("Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly . . ."). Vice President Nixon, a Quaker, read from the 15th chapter of John ("This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you . . ."). Hotelman Conrad Hilton, their host, a Roman Catholic, told them: "It took a war and the frightening evil of Communism to show the world that this whole business of prayer is not a sissy, a counterfeit thing . . . Rather it is a part of man's personality, without which he limps."

The last speaker was Chief Justice Earl Warren, who was raised a Methodist, now frequently attends Baptist services with his wife. "I believe no one can read the history of our country," he said, "without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Saviour have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses . . . Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia . . . or to the Charter of New England . . . or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay . . . or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut . . . the same objective is present: a Christian land governed by Christian principles . . .

"I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people . . . "I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country."