Newt Moving Too Fast On Coerced School Prayer

It seems that some of Newt's allies think he's moving a bit too fast on the teacher-led school prayer issue.

Quotes below taken from a Chicago Tribune article (11/19) off the New York Times News Service:

"While generally pleased at the revivial of a cause that seemed moribund, many of the leading conservative groups involved with the issue are concerned that, in supporting a constitutional amendment that would fundamentally change the Bill of Rights, Gingrich may be courting the same sort of political setback that President Clinton incurred by pushing early in his administration to overturn the ban on homosexuals in the military."

"'I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not our top priority,' said Ralph Reed Jr., president of the Christian Coalition."

"'I, for one, don't think we'll turn the country around by having public acts of piety. Our priorities are tax relief and welfare reform." (Also said by above.)

"But other religious leaders, like D. James Kennedy, the head of a radio and television ministry that reaches 2,500 towns and cities, support Gingrich for tackling the issue now, and believe a return to prayer in schools would help halt a general moral decline.

'Every society that has ever existed has been based on some religious vision,' said Kennedy..."

"'There has been no divine, no absolute moral standard in the schools since the removal of the 10 Commandments.'"

"Beverly LaHaye, president and founder of Concerned Women for America, a group that generally favors the agenda of religious conservatives, side-steps the issue..."

"LaHaye said she was startled this week when her radio program drew a flood of calls reflecting widely divergent views on the issue. 'I had my eyes opened,' she said. 'I got every kind of opinion you could. Some people said, "It's O.K. with me as long as it's 'My Lord, Jesus,'" which we know is not going to go through.'

She added: 'I don't know what magician is going to write this language. But it's going to be interesting to see. We have a huge problem on our hands here. Prayer is not supposed to divide people but to bring them together. So if prayer is going to be the big battleground, maybe we should sit back and take a long look at it.'"

"On the Left, there is no such ambivalence. Already, an array of groups is planning a counter-strategy.

'I don't underestimate the challenge whatsoever, and I don't dismiss this as grandstanding,' said Arthur Kropp, president of People for the American Way, a liberal group strongly opposed to the amendment. 'We were caught somewhat off guard. That's true. But this afternoon we are putting together all the elements of a campaign.'"

"Scores of other groups, from obvious opponents like the American Civil Liberties Union to religious organizations fearful of exclusionary language or subtle erosions of the solemnity of prayer, are planning everything from education campaigns to telephone blitzes of Congress."

"Conservatives and liberals alike this week questioned who would write, read and define what prayers could be said, where, when and by whom.

Almost any language could alienate one group or another. General prayers to God would not be appropriate for Buddhists, Jainists or polytheists. Nor would they work for atheists. In the past, students with divergent views sometimes have been asked to stand oustide their classrooms during prayer or to sit off to one side. Either way, the child is singled out.

Reed noted that one widely shared reservation in a movement that has pledged to work for smaller government was the threat of more, not less, intervention in people's lives.

'We don't want any prayer that is dictated or composed or led by a government official or school principal,' he said."

"At the heart of the problem is the schism between the inclusion of spiritual values in schools and the practicial complications of putting prayers there.

'Who is going to decide whether something is sufficiently nonsectarian or non-proselytizing?' asked Matthew Freeman, research director for the People for the American Way. 'Then there is the whole question of the impact of watered-down prayers. Prayers are meaningful. Prayers are specific. This whole question goes to how people go about worshipping their gods."

Quotes below from a Chicago Tribune article, 11/21, "Republican governors send message, Some wary of items on Gingrich's agenda"

"Buoyed by their biggest victory in 25 years, the nation's Republican governors and governors-elect sought Sunday to put some distance between themselves and the Republicans who will control Congress.

Arriving here for the annual conference of the Republican Governors Association, several of the delegates brushed aside two centerpiece issues of Rep. Newt Gingrich, the House speaker- in-waiting: his proposals for an overhaul of welfare and for a constitutional amendment to allow prayer in schools."

"Most of the governors said they favor a voluntary moment of silence before the school day. But most said their advice to congressional Republicans would be to put the issue on the back burner and deal first with the economy, welfare and government reform issues.

"That's like kissing your sister."

-- N. Carolina Rep. Senator Jesse Helms, who favors a Constitutional Amendment for teacher-led school prayer, scoffing at a milder proposal for a daily moment of silence.

The following is a letter to the Editor of the Chicago Tribune, published 11/22/94:

School prayer

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- Newt Gingrich has announced he intends to set a House vote before July 4 on a constitutional amendment to allow prayer in public schools. All Americans should be horrified at this threat to legislate away our freedom to worship as we choose.

To those conservative Christians intent on forcing their religious convictions on the rest of us, I hve two questions. Why is it necessary to mandate prayers in public schools? There is absolutely nothing today that prevents any child who wishes to say a quiet prayer at his or her desk from doing so.

If daily prayer is so important to you, pray at home with your children before sending them off to class. Why are some so intent on forcing other people's children to pray the way they want them to pray? This is nothing more than an attempt to force conservative Christian "values" on all Americans. It is an insult to all people of other (or no) religious beliefs. It will be a sad day for our religious freedom if it is allowed.

Martha Battenfeld

All quotes from the Chicago Tribune, 11/22, "School Prayer on panel's agenda"

"Rejecting warnings that school prayer and abortion are divisive issues that could imperil a new Republican consensus, U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde said the House Judiciary Committee will consider them all next year when he takes over as chairman."

"Rep. Newt Gingrich ... broadened the party's agenda immediately after the election by saying the House would consider by July 4 a constitutional amendment allowing prayer in public schools."

(This "summary" above seems to have been written by an idiot, since there is nothing FORBIDDING prayer in public schools now -- just forbidding organized and forced prayer, which is somewhat different.)

"Moderate and moderate-conservative GOP governors cautioned against that approach. 'I think Newt Gingrich should dance with the gal that brung him,' Massachusetts Gov. William Weld said over the weekend. 'And the gal that brung him was the tax-and-spend issue and crime and welfare.'"

"Hyde, however, said that while the issues contained in the GOP contract will take precedence in his committee, school prayer will not be shunted aside."

"Hyde acknowledged that serious constitutional issues need to be examined regarding school prayer but 'a moment of silence seems to be innocuous."

"Gingrich on Monday appeared to back off his timetable on school prayer."

"They're teaching us how to pray; I'd rather learn about computers." -- Dino Becirevic, an 8th-grade student in Sarajevo, on the introduction of Islamic-education classes by the increasingly religious-minded Bosnian government.

Go Back to Shy David's School Prayer Page.