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Bush Says He Backs School Prayer and Will Oppose Abortion Funding

January 30, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Bush this week reaffirmed his support for school prayer and his opposition to abortion, positions that make many American Jewish groups uncomfortable.

Bush said Monday he had not lessened his “commitment to restoring voluntary prayer in our schools,” an initiative many Jewish groups have fought on Capitol Hill and in the courts.

“Students who go to school to nourish their minds should also be allowed to nourish their souls,” he told the 48th annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters.

Despite Bush’s support of proposed legislation that would require public schools to allow such prayer, only a few dozen members of the House of Representatives are pushing for it.

The president expressed opposition to bills that would allow government funds to be used to pay for abortions. Current law bars federal funds from going to birth-control clinics that provide abortions.

“Like me, you endorse adoption, not abortion,” Bush told the 2,500 convention delegates, suggesting that women with unwanted pregnancies bear children and put them up for adoption.

Bush thanked the group representing more than 1,000 radio and television stations for helping last year to “ensure that the options of religious-based child care will not be restricted or eliminated by the federal government.”

That was a reference to a landmark law that allows federal aid to be used at child-care facilities that operate sectarian programs. Most Jewish groups were upset with that arrangement, although they did not oppose the use of federal funds at religiously sponsored child-care centers with non-sectarian programs.


Noticeably absent from Bush’s speech, which did not leave time for questions and answers, was any mention of allowing parents to use government-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools, an idea opposed by most Jewish groups, who fear it would result in public funds being used to support parochial schools.

The administration is considering providing grants to pay the administrative costs of state and local voucher programs. One proposal would provide up to $30 million in direct vouchers to certain localities as demonstration programs.

The bulk of Bush’s speech to the broadcasters focused on the allied war against Iraq.

Observing that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “has tried to cast this conflict as a religious war,” Bush said, “The war in the Gulf is not a Christian war, a Jewish war, or a Moslem war. It is a just war.”

But the president did try to cast the allied effort as a moral one. He said the goal of liberating Kuwait from Iraq was a battle for “freedom versus tyranny and oppression.”

Bush also quoted a verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes that there is a “time for peace and a time for war.”

“America has always been a religious nation, perhaps never more than now,” Bush said. “Just look at the last several weeks” with “churches, synagogues and mosques reporting record attendance at services.”

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