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Reagan Appeals for a Constitutional Amendment That Would Allow Voluntary ‘vocal Prayer’ in Public Sc

March 7, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Reagan made a strong appeal again today for a Constitutional amendment that would “allow voluntary vocal prayer” in public schools.

“I’m convinced that passage of this amendment would do more than any other action to reassert the faith and values that made America great,” Reagan said in a speech to the 42nd annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Columbus, Ohio. A text of the speech was made available at the White House.

Reagan, who has made the school prayer amendment a major issue of his campaign for re-election, urged the evangelicals to express their support to members of the Senate and House in order to ensure that the amendment gets the necessary two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.

The Senate began discussion of the amendment yesterday. Sen. Howard Baker (R. Tenn.), the Majority Leader, promised an ample debate but said he would like the vote to come in two weeks. But Sen. Lowell Weicker (R. Conn.), who is leading the opposition, said that while he will not filibuster the debate could take until June.


Reagan stressed today that his amendment “explicitly states that no child must ever be forced to recite a prayer. Nor would it allow any State to compose the words of a prayer. But under this amendment, the federal government could not forbid voluntary vocal prayer in our schools. And by reasserting our children’s freedom of religious expression, the amendment would help them to understand the diversity of America’s religious beliefs and practices,” Reagan said.

Some supporters of the amendment in the Senate are suggesting that prayer should be silent rather than vocal. But Weicker and other opponents of the amendment have argued that children can pray now in school but they are opposed to an organized prayer period.

The House is not expected to bring up the amendment until after the Senate, with a vote expected to be close, acts. But last night, a group of conservative Republicans held an all-night debate on the amendment. At the same time, a group of evangelicals held a prayer meeting in support of the amendment on the steps of the Capitol. National Jewish organizations and “main line” Protestant organizations are opposed to the amendment.


In his speech, Reagan said that the courts have not only banned prayer in the public schools but in New York, a court recently banned students in Albany from using a classroom for a voluntary prayer meeting.

“Hasn’t something gone haywire when this great Constitution of ours is invoked to allow Nazis and Ku Klux Klan men to march on public property and urge the extermination of Jews and the subjugation of Blacks, but it supposedly prevents our children from Bible study or the saying of a simple prayer in the schools?” the President asked.

Declaring that “America has begun a spiritual awakening,” Reagan urged “tolerance and openness” to those who do not agree with these views. He urged the evangelicals to “use your pulpits to denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic and religious intolerance as evils.”

The denouncing what he called the “Communist Sandinista regime” in Nicaragua, Reagan claimed that “threats and harassment have forced virtually all Nicaragua’s Jews to flee their country.”

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