1982 September 25

Reagan Attacks “Twisted Logic” of Separation of Church and State


President Ronald Reagan, beholden to the Religious Right for political support, and speaking at a candlelight event, attacked the “twisted logic” of prevailing interpretations of the Establishment Clause and the separation of church and state. In his view, and the view of religious conservatives, freedom of religion meant the freedom of government to promote religious activities; for example, through prayer in public schools.

Reagan’s speech was part of his effort to restore government-supported religious activities. See, for example, his proclamation of 1983 as the “Year of the Bible” on February 3, 1983.

President Reagan’s views on religion in American life contrast sharply with those of President John F. Kennedy, who delivered arguably the best speech on religious liberty on September 12, 1960, and also gave strong support to the controversial Supreme Court decision declaring prayer in public schools unconstitutional on June 27, 1962.

Read Reagan’s speech: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=43055

Watch a documentary on civil liberties under the Reagan administration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH_ivxQigsE

Learn more about President Reagan: Garry Wills, Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home (1987)

Learn more about the Establishment Clause: Jeremy Gunn and John Witte, No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (2012)

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