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Most Nations Eschew Prayers In Public Schools, Report Says

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Most nations do not sanction prayers in public schools, and there is an international trend toward separation of religion and education, according to a report by an American Civil Liberties Union chapter.

Proposals in the United States for a constitutional amendment authorizing some prayers in public schools would run counter to this trend, according to the A.C.L.U. of Southern California, which conducted the survey of school-prayer policies in 72 countries.

"Even countries that have not maintained strict separation of church and state have, by and large, tended to eschew state-sponsored school prayer," said Allan Parachini, the author of the report.

Of 70 countries in the survey that had unified prayer policies, 11 have state-sanctioned prayer periods in schools in which children pray together. Most of those are religiously homogeneous nations such as Greece, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand.

Steven McFarland, the director of the Christian Legal Society's center for law and religious freedom, questioned the relevance of the study to the U.S. debate over school prayer. His organization supports proposals that would guarantee voluntary student prayers in public schools.

"It's mildly interesting, but I don't think it answers the debate," he said. "The United States has never taken its cue from other countries on matters of fundamental human rights."

Copies of ~"Prayer in School: An International Survey" are available for $10 from the Public Affairs Department, A.C.L.U. of Southern California, 1616 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90026; (213) 977-9500.

--Mark Walsh

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