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October 31, 2001 1 min read
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Governor: Let U.S. Pray

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has caused a stir by praying with a group of students at a middle school assembly and then calling for a reconsideration of the constraints against prayer in public schools.

Gov. Rick Perry

The Republican governor joined many students in answering “Amen” to a prayer offered “in Jesus’ name” by a Protestant minister during an Oct. 19 assembly at Palestine (Tex.) Middle School.

Mr. Perry later told reporters that after Sept. 11, he sensed a widespread desire to restore organized prayer to public schools.

“From my personal perspective, I think that a prayer life and a country that respects a higher being, our God, is a stronger country,” he told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.

Mr. Perry added that it would not be difficult to write a prayer that could satisfy all faiths.

“I happen to think we all pray to the same God,” the governor continued, according to the newspaper. “I’ll let the theologians split the hairs and do all those kinds of things.”

The governor said he would make school prayer a campaign issue next year.

Mr. Perry said he cannot understand why Congress and the Texas legislature may legally open their sessions with prayer, but public schools cannot.

The U.S. Supreme Court prohibited school-led prayers in landmark decisions in 1962 and 1963. In 2000, the court held that a Texas district’s policy of permitting student-led prayers at high school football games was unconstitutional.

Judith E. Schaeffer, the deputy legal director of the Washington-based advocacy group People for the American Way, said she found Mr. Perry’s views “very disturbing ... Prayer has never been banned from public schools,” she said. “What the Supreme Court has prohibited is captive-audience prayers and organized prayers.”

—Mark Walsh

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