Religion is private, not public matter

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''Religion is a personal factor. One's faith is hard to address in a public forum'' says US Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum.

In an interview, Mrs. Kassebaum--the only woman presently serving in the US Senate--stressed that ''we must look to ourselves on moral issues--not the governmental structure.''

''If my children's morals are not what they should be, it's not the government's fault. It's mine,'' she adds.

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Mrs. Kassebaum is a Reagan Republican. She has strong conservative ties dating back to her childhood. Her father, Alf Landon, was the GOP's unsuccessful presidential nominee in 1936.

Like President Reagan, the Kansas freshman senator supports the idea of school prayer. But she does not favor legislation which would prohibit the courts from hearing cases in which school prayer is an issue.

She also opposes a law or constitutional amendment which would outlaw abortion. ''I am 'pro-choice,' '' she says, ''But many times we look to abortion to escape our personal responsibility.''

Mrs. Kassebaum adds that she believes in representative democracy and strong political parties. Those who limit themselves to campaigning on single issues ''remove the glue of the party,'' she says.

The Kansas Republican is particularly critical of Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina who is a key crusader for a series of bills which would strip the federal courts of much of their power to decide cases involving issues such as school prayer, abortion, capital punishment, and school busing.

''We seem to have lost the sense that we can control our own identity,'' Nancy Kassebaum says. ''We fear too much--communism; we fear that the state is taking over, our children are being ruined.''

''We label too much . . . [we're] too polarized,'' she adds, reemphasizing that Americans should look more to themselves, and less to government and legislation, to solve vexing social problems.

''But all in all, the [constitutional] process works pretty well. That's the saving grace.''

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