The New York Times reported this yesterday:
Ryan Says Prayer in Schools Is a State IssueHere's a question I want a reporter to ask Ryan: Do you believe that the constitution prohibition against establishing a state religion applies only to the federal government? Or does it also apply to the states? Or, put simply: Do you believe an individual state can legally establish a state religion?
PROVO, Utah -- Prayer in public schools was prohibited by the United States Supreme Court in 1962, but Representative Paul D. Ryan said on Wednesday that he believed that states should have the right to decide whether it should be allowed.
“That's a constitutional issue of the states," Mr. Ryan told a campaign volunteer during a visit to a Romney for President call center in Orem.
The volunteer, Jenny Free, 40, said she was a mother of nine children and asked Mr. Ryan if "we could give back to the states the right to decide if you want prayer or pledge in the schools."
Mr. Ryan called the decision to say a prayer or recite the Pledge of Allegiance a "moral responsibility of parents."
"Exactly," Ms. Free responded, according to footage shot by a television reporter for NBC News, "so I am hoping to try and push that."
"You know, in Utah, I would think you would have a pretty good chance," Mr. Ryan told her....
I ask because the belief that this is allowed is disturbingly common on the right. It isn't just wackos outside government like Alan Keyes and Ann Coulter who believe church/state separation doesn't apply at the state level -- Clarence Thomas has also suggested that the states can designate official churches. (The Supreme Court has decisively said otherwise, though that may not matter if Mitt Romney gets a few Court picks.)
Now, you'd think a member of the Catholic Church running with a member of the Mormon faith would be a tad wary of the notion that states might designate official religions, given the hostility of many Americans to both churches over the years. But I don't suppose any rock-ribbed conservative would object to a state religion of "Christianity," without greater specificity. That would horrify me, of course, as an American. Would it bother Ryan? I think he ought to be asked.