American Proscenium

The American Proscenium

The American Proscenium

Politics and Prayer


One of the high points of this fall's campaign season was the vigorous debate over the place of religion in America's public life. In retrospect, it may some day be regarded as the most meaningful public discussion of the question in this century. The exchange began early in the campaign when President Reagan asserted in a Dallas prayer breakfast that politics and religion are "necessarily related" and later; in an American Legion speech in Salt Lake City, attacked "antireligionists" for trying "to twist the concept of freedom of religion to mean freedom against religion." Walter Mondale responded in a B'nai B'rith speech in Washington by accusing Reagan of violating the constitutional separation of Church and state by supporting school prayer and of thereby asking "the state to enforce the religious life of our people." Religious attitudes toward abortion were soon added to the agenda, as Senator Kennedy, Governor Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, Archbishop O'Connor, Moral Majority, and many others joined in the fray. Handicapped by a stunted religious sensibility, the national media often lapsed into threadbare clichés, denouncing the New Right effort to "impose" religious views on the nation. Fortunately, some media outlets moved beyond these deceptive...

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