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SCHOOL PRAYER AMENDMENT AIRED BEFORE HOUSE PANEL

Students should not be required to participate in prayer in the classroom, but neither should classmates be kept from engaging in it, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment said Tuesday.

Schoolchildren are exposed to ideas they or their parents disagree with every day, said Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr., R-Okla., author of the measure.

Voluntary prayer would not be treated any differently under the proposed "Religious Freedom Amendment," he told a House subcommittee.

Opponents said that the Constitution already guarantees freedom of religion and suggested that the amendment is a tool of the religious right that could end up restricting religious freedom, not expanding it.

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