The Associated Press asked the Year 2000 Democratic and Republican presidential
candidates for their position on school prayer. On 2000-OCT-9, they
published the responses from
Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. Their beliefs are
believed to reflect their parties' positions.
George W. Bush (Republican):
"I support voluntary, student-led
prayer and am committed to the First Amendment principles of
religious freedom, tolerance, and diversity. Whether Mormon,
Methodist, or Muslim, students in America should be able to
participate in their constitutional free exercise of religion. I believe it is wrong to forcefully expunge any mention of religion,
or dilute its impact and importance, when discussing world affairs.
Religion is a personal, private matter and parents, not public
school officials, should decide their children's religious
training. We should not have teacher-led prayers in public schools,
and school officials should never favor one religion over another,
or favor religion over no religion (or vice versa). I also believe
that schools should not restrict students' religious liberties. The
free exercise of faith is the fundamental right of every American,
and that right doesn't stop at the schoolhouse door.''
Comment: He supports "voluntary, student-led
prayer" but not "teacher-led prayers." This is
mean that he supports setting class time aside each morning so that public
school students could lead their fellow students in prayer.
Or, it might mean that he supports student's existing rights to pray on
the school bus, at the flagpole, in the corridors, in the cafeteria and in
student-led religious clubs.
Al Gore (Democrat):
"Faith is not something that can be left at
the schoolhouse door, and indeed the Constitution does not attempt
to impose such an unreasonable standard. I support protecting
religious freedom for all faiths. However, I oppose and I believe
the Constitution prohibits mandated school prayer in public
schools. My reason for opposing school prayer rests upon the idea
that defending the separation between church and state is neither a
Democratic nor a Republican idea, but an American idea. I do
support a student's right to voluntarily pray in school or practice
a moment of silence. I voted in favor of an amendment that gave
individuals in public school the opportunity for silent prayer with
appropriate constitutional safeguards. I believe that we must
remain vigilant to ensure that no student is forced to pray and
that the contents of any prayer are not dictated by school officials.''
Comment: He feels that no student should be forced to pray. But,
strictly speaking, students are never forced to pray, even in those public
schools which violate the U.S. Constitution by having the teacher lead morning
prayers in the classroom. Objecting students can always excuse themselves and
stand out in the hall. They expose themselves to ridicule and possible assault
by fellow students. But they are never forced to pray.