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President Reagan on Prayer In Schools

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of former President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan was the 40th President of our great nation and served as this country’s leader for eight years. Vic Dove who writes a column for one of our South Georgia newspapers ran his radio address to the nation on Prayer in Schools that he made on February 25, 1984. Portions of that speech will be the topic of my column for this week.

“From the early days of the colonies prayer in school was practiced and revered as an important tradition. For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history it was considered a natural expression of our religious freedom. However, in 1962 the Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision prohibiting prayer in public schools.

Sometimes I cannot help but feel the first amendment is being turned on its head. Because ask yourselves: Can it really be true that the first amendment can permit Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen to march on public property, advocate the extermination of people of the Jewish faith and the subjugation of blacks, while the same amendment forbids our children from saying a prayer in school?” President Reagan said.

He went on to tell about students in a school in Albany, New York who wanted to use an empty classroom to have voluntary prayer but the Second Circuit of Appeals Court said no. He told about a case of a kindergarten class that made a very sweet prayer before their milk and cookies but a Federal Court of Appeals ordered them to stop. They were violating the Constitution of the United States.

“President Teddy Roosevelt told us, ‘The American people are slow to wrath but when their wrath is once kindled it burns like a flame.’ Up to 80 percent of the American people support voluntary prayer. They understand what the Founding Fathers intended. The first amendment was not written to protect the people from religion. That amendment was written to protect religion from government tyranny. The amendment says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. What could be clearer?” Reagan said.

“When the Constitution was being debated at the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin rose to say, ‘The longer I live the more convincing proofs I see that God governs the affairs of men. Without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. Have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance!’ Franklin then asked the Convention to begin its daily deliberations by asking for the assistance of Almighty God.”

“George Washington believed that religion was an essential pillar of a strong society. In his farewell address he said, ‘Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’

“Now we are told our children have no right to pray in school. Nonsense. The pendulum has swung too far towards intolerance against genuine religious freedom. It is time to redress the balance,” President Reagan continued.

“Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart noted that if religious exercises are held to be an impermissible activity in schools religion is placed at an artificial and state created disadvantage. Permission for such exercises for those who want them is necessary if the schools are truly to be neutral in the matter of religion. In addition a refusal to permit them is seen not as the realization of state neutrality but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.”

“If ever there was a time for you, the good people of this country, to make your voices heard it is now,” President Reagan concluded in his radio address to the nation.

The same holds true today. We need a hero like President Ronald Reagan who was not afraid to stand up and proclaim the fact that without God we will become nothing more than another lost culture of people in history’s record book, as Vic Dove wrote.

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