Bush Affirms Role of Religion in Public Life

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As the Supreme Court appears on the brink of re-evaluating the constitutional relationship between church and state, President George Bush has asserted his belief that religion should be allowed a bigger role in public life. Commenting on a Rhode Island case involving the constitutionality of invocations at public-school graduations, which the high court will hear next fall, Bush said, “I simply do not agree that religion has no place in something like a graduation.” He also reaffirmed his support for voluntary prayer in public schools.

Bush said he instructed the Justice Department to urge that “this matter be restudied and given a new look.” The department filed an early brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to abandon the current test they use to determine the constitutionality of religious practices in public arenas. (To pass the current “Lemon test,” a practice must have a secular purpose, must neither advance nor inhibit religion, and must not foster “excessive government entanglement with religion.”) Bush said, “I hope that our intervention on that side will be effective.”

The President made his remarks during a wide-ranging interview late last month with 14 journalists representing a variety of religious publications, including CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Bush also said he believes it is “appropriate” and “helpful” for religious groups and religious leaders to petition the government on their particular points of view on public policy. “I think it’s historic,” he said. “And I think a President should listen and be open-minded enough to hear.”

For example, Bush said he found religious opinions on the recent ...

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