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A Presidential Appeal for Prayer - 1984

President Ronald Reagan made a commonsense case for prayer in schools.


In 1984, the United States Senate was considering a constitutional amendment to authorize voluntary, vocal prayer by students in public schools. On this day, February 25, 1984, President Ronald Reagan used his weekly radio address to appeal to Americans to make their voices heard in support of the prayer amendment.


“My fellow Americans:

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

“Sometimes I can’t 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?

“….Up to 80 percent of the American people support voluntary prayer. They understand what the Founding Fathers intended. The first amendment of the Constitution 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 more clear?

“…But now we’re told our children have no right to pray in school. Nonsense. The pendulum has swung too far toward intolerance against genuine religious freedom. It’s time to redress the balance….

“Our amendment would ensure that no child be forced to recite a prayer. Indeed, it explicitly states this. Nor would the state be allowed to compose the words of any prayer. But the courts could not forbid our children from voluntary vocal prayer in their schools…”


Reagan, Ronald. “Radio Address to the Nation on Prayer in Schools ,” February 25, 1984.

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