Following is an excerpt from a speech last week by President Reagan before the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Washington.
People want a constitutional amendment making it unequivocally clear our children can hold voluntary prayer in every school across this land. And if we could get God and discipline back in our schools, maybe we could get drugs and violence out.
I know that some believe that voluntary prayer in schools should be restricted to a moment of silence. We already have the right to remain silent. We can take our Fifth Amendment. Seriously, we need a new amendment to restore the rights that were taken from us.
Senator [Howard] Baker has assured us that we will get a vote on our amendment, and with your help we can win, and that will be a great victory for our children.
During the last decade, we’ve seen people’s commitment to religious liberty expressed by the establishment of thousands of new religious schools. These schools were built by the sacrifices of parents determined to provide a quality education for their children in an environment that permits traditional values to flourish.
Now, I believe that some of you met with my advisers to discuss the situation of religious schools in Nebraska. We have all seen news accounts of the jailing of a minister, the padlocking of a church, and the continuing imprisonment of fathers of students. This issue of religious liberty has arisen in other states. The question is how to find the balance between assuring quality of education and preserving freedom for churches and parents who want their schools to reflect their faith.
These cases have mostly proceeded in state courts. A number of state supreme courts have reached decisions that moderated the effect of state regulations on religious schools. Last week, a panel appointed by the governor of Nebraska concluded that the state’s regulations violate the religious liberties of Christian schools.
I’m a firm believer in the separation of powers, that this nation is a federation of sovereign states. But isn’t it time for the Nebraska courts or legislature to solve this problem by a speedy reconsideration? I hope some way can be found to resolve the legal issues without having people in jail for doing what they think is right.
Within our families, neighborhoods, schools, and places of work, let us continue reaching out, renewing our spirit of friendship, community service, and caring for each other--a spirit that flows like a deep and powerful river through the history of our nation.
I made a point last year which some of our critics jumped on, but I believe it has merit. Government bureaucracies spend billions for problems related to drugs, alcohol-ism, and disease. How much of that money could we save, how much better off might Americans be if all of us tried a little harder to live by the Ten Commandments and the Gold[en] Rule? I’ve been told that since the beginning of civilization, millions and millions of laws have been written. I’ve even heard someone suggest it was as many as several billion. And, yet, taken all together, all those millions and millions of laws have not improved on the Ten Commandments one bit.
A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 1984 edition of Education Week as Excerpts From Reagan’s Speech to Broadcasters’ Group