The Power of Prayer

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Oklahoma Republican Representative Ernest Istook is introducing a religious liberty amendment to the U.S. Constitution aimed at overruling the Supreme Court's ban on school prayer and other church and state separations. The somewhat wordy measure: "To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: The people's right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage or traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. The government shall not require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity; initiate or designate school prayers, discriminate against religion, or deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion." The last part appears to allow the aid to parochial schools desired by the Catholic Church, notes TIME's Richard Ostling, but because the church so far is staying firmly on the sidelines, passage looks unlikely. "If the Catholics stay out, with Jews and liberal Protestants adamantly opposed, Istook's support would be limited to the conservative Protestants," reports Ostling. "This gravely weakens his odds of getting the required two-thirds majority in either the House or Senate." The measure could help conservative Republicans by forcing liberals and Democrats to vote 'against prayer,' a move that could endanger their reelection prospects.