At the Republican Party Convention: Reagan: Opponents of School Prayer Are ‘intolerant of Religion’
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At the Republican Party Convention: Reagan: Opponents of School Prayer Are ‘intolerant of Religion’

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President Reagan today accused those who oppose voluntary prayer in schools as being “intolerant of religion.”

“Today, there are those who are fighting to make sure voluntary prayer is not returned to the classrooms, “he said to some 17,000 people at an ecumenical prayer breakfast at the Reunion Arena. The breakfast was sponsored by Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and a Moslem, but the mainstream Protestant churches were quoted as saying they had not been asked to participate.

“The frustrating thing for the great majority of Americans who support and understand the special importance of religion in the national life … is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance and freedom and open-mindedness,” the President declared.

He asked: “Isn’t the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? That they refuse to tolerate its importance in our lives?’

Reagan said that “if all of the children of our country studied together all of the many religions in our country, wouldn’t they learn greater tolerance of each other’s beliefs? … If children prayed together, would they not understand what they have in common and would this not indeed bring them closer? I submit to you that those who claim to be fighting for tolerance on this issue may not be tolerant at all.”


The President stressed that no one religion will ever be established in this country. “We command no worship,” Reagan said, “we mandate no belief.” But he stressed, “Those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief, to apply moral teaching to public questions.”

Meanwhile, in his scheduled acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention tonight, Reagan is expected to include a denunciation of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry as the Republicans continue to believe that the Democratic Party’s failure to include a plank on this issue in their platform, as the Republicans have now done, will be a major campaign plus for them in the Jewish community.

Last night, in renominating Reagan at the Dallas Convention Center, Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada used this issue and New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s criticism of New York Archbishop John O’Connor for saying he could not understand how devout Catholics could vote for politicans who support abortion, to charge that Cuomo and the Democrats have moved away from the philosophy of the late New York Governor AI Smith who in 1928 was the first Catholic to seek the Presidency.

“What’s happened to the Democratic Party when its own leadership refuses to let the Ohio delegation’s resolution denouncing anti-Semitism come to a vote on the floor of a Democratic Convention?” Laxalt asked. “How shocked the happy warrior (Smith) would be, who stood so bravely against prejudices in the 1928 Democratic Convention, who never missed a chance to denounce bigotry. Shame on you, Walter Mondale. What would Hubert Humphrey say?”

Mondale, after the convention, did urge the Democratic National Committee to adopt a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry which the Committee’s Executive did two weeks ago by telephone vote.

Reagan’s renomination was seconded by Rep. Bobb Fiedler, the only Jewish Republican Congresswoman. She noted the hope offered by the U.S. to people from many countries. “My grandparents decided that the unknown challenge of the new life in the United States would be preferable to the grim realities of the religious persecution which marked their lives in the old world,” Fiedler, of California, said.

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