Praying Politics


SHAMELESS political posturing is nothing new in an election year, but when God is allegedly on your side, politicians are unabashed about whoring for electoral points. Just ask President Reagan, whose current push for a Constitutional amendment permitting officially sanctioned prayer in public schools is particularly disgraceful.

Thankfully, the Senate Tuesday rejected the proposed amendment by a margin of 11--with moderate Republicans tipping the balance. School and prayer are, quite simply, an unacceptable fusion of church and state, as the Senate correctly resolved once again. But the closeness of the vote and the determination of those supporting the measure warrant a close look at the politics of school prayer.

Voters will recall that the question of voluntary prayer was a major part of Reagan's platform in 1980, but has--thank God--been noticeably dormant ever since. But with the election year revving up into full gear, Reagan and his cohorts recently resuscitated the issue. This turn of events throws considerable doubt on the Reaganites' claims that all they are trying to do is to welcome the God "who loves us" back into the classroom. Rather, it suggests tht Reagan wants to shore up support among New Right groups in the South and Roman Catholics in the North, as some of his more honest aides have admitted.

What makes the whole affair downright unseemly is that Reagan himself has admitted to attending church about four times during his Oval Office stay, an odd figure for someone who so passionately trumpets the cause of God on his political battlefields.

More important, though, voters should be watchful of the apparent willingness of Reagan and some Congressmen to sell their political souls to religious lobbies; with school prayer on hold, at least for the moment, these politicians may well be seeking to wave the banner of God in some other sector of official life.