June 3, 1998
The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.J.Res. 78. The
Nation currently has a constitutional amendment that protects religious
liberty -- the First Amendment. As the Administration's guidelines on
religious practices in schools make clear, public school students are free
to voluntarily pray privately and individually at school. Students have a
right to say grace at lunchtime. They have the right to meet in religious
groups on school grounds and use school facilities like any other school
club. They have the right to read the Bible, or any religious text during
study hall or other free class time. Similarly, people who wish to engage
in religious expression on public property have the same rights as people
who wish to engage in comparable nonreligious expression.
Not only is a new constitutional amendment unnecessary, H.J.Res. 78 would, in a variety of ways, undermine the religious freedom we now cherish; would embroil State and local governments in years of divisive and costly debate and litigation over its meaning; and could well require our taxpaying citizens to provide financial support to churches, parochial schools, and other pervasively religious institutions.
For over 200 years, the First Amendment has protected our rights to be as religious as we choose. Congress should not tamper with this most precious liberty. The First Amendment should not be rewritten.
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