A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 17, 2011
“As long as there are final exams, there will be prayer in schools”

The issue of prayer in public schools has long been debated in the United States, and the U.S. Supreme Court case of Engel v. Vitale ruled shool prayer to be unconstitutional. Several school prayer jokes became popular in 1964.

“THE SUPREME COURT MAY TRY to ban prayers in school, but there’s no way to ban the silent ones. Lord Ashley predicts that as long as there are final examinations in school, there will be prayers” was printed in The News and Courier (Charleston, SC) on May 6, 1964. “AS LONG as there are final exams in schools, there always will be prayers in schools” was printed in the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal on May 28, 1964. “As long as there are final exams in schools, there always will be prayers in schools” was printed in the Indianapolis (IN) Star on June 21, 1964.

Math tests are often specifically mentioned. “As long as there are surprise math tests, there will always be prayer in the public schools” has been cited in print since at least March 1983. “As long as there are final exams there will always be prayer in school” has also been cited from 1983.

The saying was a favorite of Ronald Reagan (1911-2004).

[This entry was assisted by subsequent research from the Quote Investigator.]


Wikipedia: Engel v. Vitale
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and encourage its recitation in public schools.

6 May 1964, The News and Courier (Charleston, SC), “Doing the Charleston” by Ashley Cooper, pg. 8-A, col. 4:
THE SUPREME COURT MAY TRY to ban prayers in school, but there’s no way to ban the silent ones. Lord Ashley predicts that as long as there are final examinations in school, there will be prayers.

28 May 1964, Akron (OH) Beacon Journal, “Facts and Fads” by Earl Vicariu, pg. 21, col. 1:
Overheard
“AS LONG as there are final exams in schools, there always will be prayers in schools.”

21 June 1964, Indianapolis (IN) Star, “Kelly Fordyce’s Sunday Smiles,” Magazine sec., pg. 4, col. 2:
As long as there are final exams in schools, there always will be prayers in schools.

25 August 1964, Burlington (VT) Free Press, “The Old-Timer Says,” pg. 12, col. 1:
As long as there are final exams, there always will be prayers in our schools.

22 September 1964, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “In the Wake of the News” by David Condon, sec. 3, pg. 1, col. 1:
Truthogram
You can rest assured there will be prayers in our schools as long as there are final exams.
-- The Farmer’s Daughter.

15 October 1964, Belleville (KS) Telescope, “The Spyglass” by M. M. M., pg. 1B, col. 2:
Regardless of what they Supreme court says, there will be prayers in our schools as long as there are exams.—Belleville [Kas.] Telescope.

7 January 1965, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, pg. 4, col. 3:
School Prayer, ‘Finals’ Linked
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Jan. 6 (AP)—Sign spotted today on a Fort Lauderdale drive-in restaurant marquee:

“As long as there are final exams, there will be prayers in our schools.”

28 January 1966, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “The Other Half” by Fred Thomas, pg. 2-T, col. 7:
“University of Omaha President Leland E. Traywick, discussing Supreme Court decisions regarding prayers in school—‘As long as there are examinations, there will be prayers in schools.’”

2 June 1968, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Larry Wolters’ Gag Bag,” Sunday Magazine, pg. 19, col. 3:
Joyce Brothers: Regardless of what the Supreme court says there will be prayers in our schools as long as there are exams.

2 March 1972, Feather River Bulletin (Quincy, CA), pg. 5, col. 5:
As long as there are final examinations, there will be prayer in schools.—Harold S. May, The Florence (Ala.) Herald.

21 March 1983, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, “New fight prepared for school prayer” by Paul Gores, sec. 1, pg. 7, col. 1:
Some educators like to joke that as long as there are surprise math tests, there will always be prayer in the public schools.

Google Books
Meet the Press
Volume 83
1983
Pg. 7:
Jokingly, someone has said as long as there are final exams there will always be prayer in school, and individuals will be allowed to pray on their own.

Google Books
American Opinion
Volume 27
1983
Pg. 36:
Spied on a large sign in front of a South Boston motel: “As long as there are final exams, there will be prayer in public schools.”

Google News Archive
4 March 1984, Anchorage (AK) Daily News, “Senate prepares to take up old debate over propriety of prayer in U.S. public schools,” pg. A12, col. 1:
“As long as there are math tests, students will pray in the schools,” Rep. Charlie Rose, D-N.C., said.

Google News Archive
6 March 1984, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, “God help Congress as it tackles school preayer issue” by Phil Musick, pg. B1, col. 2:
As a teacher was telling the Washington Post the other day, “as long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in schools.”

New York (NY) Times
5 SENATORS OPPOSE SCHOOL PRAYER MEASURE
By JANE PERLEZ, Special to the New York Times
Published: March 16, 1984
Christopher J. Dodd
(...)
Current law does not forbid students from praying. As somebody said, ‘’As long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school.’’

24 April 1984, Phiuladelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Falwell, Edgar: Religion has place in politics,” pg. B3:
“As long as there are final exams, there will be prayer in the schools,” he said.

Google Books
America’s Schools:
Passing the test of the ‘80s?

By Carol C. Collins
New York, NY: Facts on File Publications
1985
Pg. 177:
Lowell Weicker has observed, that as long as there are math tests there will be prayer in schools, whatever the justices may opine.

Google Books
Becoming Anabaptist:
The origin and significance of sixteenth-century Anabaptism

By J. Denny Weaver
Scottdale, PA: Herald Press
1987
Pg. 196:
As the old joke goes, “As long as teachers give tests, there will be prayer in schools.”

The Notes:
Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom

By Ronald Reagan
Edited by Douglas Brinkley
New York, NY: HarperCollins
2011
Pg. 204:
As long as there are final exams there will be prayer in schools.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Tuesday, May 17, 2011 • Permalink