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Reason and moderation have won out in this Congress on the social issue agenda. The latest welcome development is the shelving in the Senate of a measure sanctioning school prayer - a defeat that blocks one more effort to inject religion in the schools but in no way devalues or undermines the right of individual prayer. This follows on previous congressional defeats of an anti-abortion bill and of a proposal to ban most school busing for racial integration.

For the time being at least the Congress has avoided extreme moves that would be socially divisive and stuck to the middle ground. As Senator Mathias commented, ''The centrists are still in control on these issues.'' Fortunately so.

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