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Federal File: Clinton backs prayer; New slot for Alexander

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President Clinton last week told a national audience that he favors some forms of prayer in public schools.

At a televised "town meeting'' in Charlotte, N.C., Mr. Clinton said there are circumstances in which school prayer should be allowed.

"I agree that the government should not be in the business of requiring people to pray or telling them what prayers to pray,'' the President said. "I do not agree that people should not be able to freely pray and to acknowledge God.''

In his remarks, Mr. Clinton said he agrees with the landmark 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Engel v. Vitale that struck down a New York State law that required daily recitation of a state-developed prayer.

However, although he did not mention it by name, Mr. Clinton seemed to disagree with the High Court's conclusion in Lee v. Weisman, the 1992 case in which it declared that a school district's policy of inviting clergy to conduct prayers at graduation ceremonies was unconstitutional.

"If you're praying at a graduation exercise or a sporting event, it's a big open-air thing, and no one's being coerced,'' Mr. Clinton said.

Mr. Clinton also said that while the family, the church, and other community institutions should be primarily responsible for child rearing, schools should foster "a set of civic values that everyone agrees with.''

Lamar Alexander, the former U.S. Secretary of Education, has joined the Hudson Institute as a senior fellow and the director of a new, two-year project that will "analyze public-policy dilemmas, inform debate, and deepen public understanding of how enduring elements of the American dream, such as freedom, opportunity, enterprise, family, and neighborhood, can guide our approach to today's issues.''

The think-tank post should serve the former Tennessee Governor and University of Tennessee president well should he seek the 1996 Republican Presidential nomination.

For months, in anticipation of a Presidential bid, Mr. Alexander has been hosting electronic meetings on his Republican Exchange Satellite Network, on which he discusses policy issues with state and local officials.

Former Secretary William J. Bennett, another potential candidate, has also been affiliated with the Hudson Institute.

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