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School Prayer Comment Needs Amplification

June 20, 1993

* Though Times staff writer John Dart correctly quoted my statement ("Valley Viewpoints Clash on Ruling of Student Prayers," June 8), much of this interview was not reported, which leads me to express the following brief expansion and clarification.

To my quote, "I am disheartened. I thought the Constitution would protect us from the tyranny of the majority," it should be added:

Though we of Atheists United staunchly defend free speech, a high school graduation is hardly a marketplace of ideas. Those chosen to speak are seldom free to offer opinions other than those that are not controversial. Therefore, it is unlikely that Jewish, Islamic or other non-Christians will express their discomfort if the God mentioned in a student prayer is Jesus Christ.

It is also highly probable these students have long before learned to remain silent rather than risk scorn, derision and ostracism by their classmates.

In a more perfect world, we would have no problem with prayer at high school graduations.

Then an atheist student would be equally welcome to address the gathering and declare, "It is we humans, through our intelligence, efforts and cooperation, who must take responsibility for our destiny and the welfare of the planet. It is naive, arrogant and perhaps even dangerous to seriously believe the course of the universe can be altered through prayer."

ALEXANDER PRAIRIE

Sherman Oaks

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