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Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan prays with National Association of Evangelicals President Arthur Gay, left, following Reagan's address to the organization's convention in Columbus, Ohio, on March 7, 1984. Reagan asked the group to help pass a constitutional amendment permitting prayer in school. 

This State Journal editorial ran on March 9, 1984:

Typical of the views of those arguing for prayer in public schools is this statement by Teresa Donovan, a Washington, D.C., lawyer, who has published a book on school prayer:

“It is well to remember exactly what is at stake here, and that is religious liberty. ... If (opening the school day with a prayer) is not permitted, it is a severe restriction on the freedom of speech of religious citizens.”

Yet religious freedom exists now in public schools, unfettered by federal or local law. Any child, any teacher, any school official can pray any time he or she wants to, at church, at home and during the school day.

The question is whether prayer should be organized and institutionalized by schools. The answer should be no.

As soon as public schools begin establishing periods for prayer, as soon as they begin writing specific prayers — as they would be allowed to under at least one of the proposed constitutional amendments being debated in Congress — government unnecessarily becomes involved in religion.

The separation of church and state has preserved freedom of Americans to worship — or not to worship — as they please. It has enriched America. The formula should not be diluted.

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