Ronald Reagan? Ashley Cooper? Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr.? David Condon? The Farmer’s Daughter? Norine Carman? Sam Levenson? Charles Rose? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The topic of prayers in schools in the U.S. has been controversial for many years. Humorists have reacted with quips such as:
- As long as algebra is taught in school, there will be prayer in school.
- As long as there are final exams, there will be prayers in our schools.
Apparently, U.S. President Ronald Reagan employed this joke. Would you please explore this remark?
Quote Investigator: In 1962 and 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court delivered landmark decisions concerning school prayer. The judges restricted compulsory prayers in school.
Versions of the jest under analysis began to circulate after these key events; however, the quip can be expressed in many ways which makes it difficult to trace. The earliest instance known to QI appeared in a column by Ashley Cooper in the “The News and Courier” of Charleston, South Carolina in May 1964. The scribe referred to himself comically as “Lord Ashley”. Ashley Cooper was a pseudonym for the bestselling author Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
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.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1964 May 6, The News and Courier, Doing the Charleston by Ashley Cooper, Quote Page 8A, Column 4, Charleston, South Carolina. (GenealogyBank) ↩