Statement on Senate Action on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Prayer in Schools

March 20, 1984

I am deeply disappointed that, although a majority of the Senate voted for it, the school prayer amendment fell short of the special two-thirds majority needed to win in the Senate today.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the unprecedented outpouring of support from citizens who made their views known to their Senators on this issue. And I want to thank Senators Baker, Thurmond, Helms, and Hatch for their valiant efforts to restore this revered American tradition.

This has been an important debate revealing the extent to which the freedom of religious speech has been abridged in our nation's public schools. The issue of free religious speech is not dead as a result of this vote. We have suffered a setback, but we have not been defeated. Our struggle will go on.

The courts themselves can restore a more balanced view of the first amendment, as we have seen in some recent cases. My administration will continue our efforts to allow government to accommodate prayer and religious speech by citizens in ways that do not risk an establishment of religion. I urge the Congress to consider the equal access legislation before both Houses so that voluntary student religious groups can meet on public school property on the same terms as other student groups.