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Ronald Reagan on Civil Rights

President of the U.S., 1981-1989; Republican Governor (CA)


Supported Bob Jones Univ.’s miscegeny policy, inadvertently

The president was so cut off from the counsel of black Americans that he sometimes did not even realize when he was offending them. One example occurred when Reagan sided with Bob Jones University in a lawsuit to obtain federal tax exemptions that had been denied by the IRS. The IRS denied tax exemptions to segregated private schools. Many of them were schools such as Bob Jones University, which enrolled a handful of minority students but prohibited interracial dating and marriage. It was the basis of this discrimination that the IRS denied the tax exemption.

Reagan would later say that the case had never been presented to him as a civil rights issue. More astonishingly, he did not even know that many Christian schools practiced segregation.

Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p.521-22 , Jul 2, 1991

Promised to appoint a female Justice; O’Connor was the first

Reagan changed the Supreme Court. He appointed the first woman to the high court, Sandra Day O’Connor, fulfilling a pledge he had made during a low point of his 1980 presidential campaign. Reagan’s strategists came up with the idea of putting a woman on the Supreme Court.
Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 804 , Jul 2, 1991

Opposed Voting Rights Act of 1965 as “humiliating to South”

Reagan never supported the use of federal power to provide blacks with civil rights. He opposed the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Reagan said in 1980 that the Voting Rights Act had been “humiliating to the South.” While he made political points with white southerners on this issue, he was sensitive to any suggestion that his stands on civil rights issues were politically or racially motivated, and he typically reacted to such criticisms as attacks on his personal integrity.
Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 520 , Jul 2, 1991

Gay teachers should not advocate their lifestyle to students

Q. New York City has just approved a bill banning discrimination in housing and jobs for homosexuals. What is your position?

A. Well, I am one who believes in the rights of the individual. But I do have to question sometimes whether individual rights are being defended in this particular field, or whether they are demanding an acceptance of their particular lifestyle that others of us don't demand. For example, should a teacher in a classroom be invoking their personal habits and advocating them to their students as a way of life?

Q. This bill essentially applies the same antidiscriminatory measures as are applied to blacks, as to women, to other people. Do you think that's all right?

A. How would we feel if a teacher, male or female, a heterosexual, insisted on the right in the classroom to discuss their sexual preferences and why and whether they believed in complete promiscuity or not? We would be quite offended and think that our children should not be exposed to that.

Source: Interview with New York Times (APP) , Mar 21, 1986

Defining some as less-than-human leads to holocaust

America was founded by men and women who shared a vision of the value of each and every individual. We fought a terrible war to guarantee that one category of mankind--black people in America--could not be denied the inalienable rights with which their Creator endowed them. Abraham Lincoln warned of the danger we would face if we closed our eyes to the value of life in any category of human beings: "If one man says 'all men are created equal' does not mean a Negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man?"

William Brennan reminded us, "The cultural environment for a human holocaust is present whenever any society can be misled into defining individuals as less than human and therefore devoid of value and respect."

Even the Supreme Court's opinion in "Roe v Wade" did not explicitly reject the traditional American idea of intrinsic worth and value in all human life; it simply dodged this issue.

Source: Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, p. 15 , Jan 1, 1984

Supports constitutional amendment to allow prayer in schools

When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they never intended to construct a wall between government and religious belief. The Supreme Court opens its proceedings with a religious invocation. Congress opens sessions with a prayer. I believe the schoolchildren of the United States are entitled to the same privileges. I sent the Congress a constitutional amendment to restore prayer to public schools. I am calling on the Congress to act speedily and to let our children pray.
Source: Speech in Orlando Florida , Mar 8, 1983

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Civil Rights.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Ronald Reagan.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Ronald Reagan.
Other past presidents on Civil Rights: Ronald Reagan on other issues:
Former Presidents:
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole
V.P.Walter Mondale

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Page last updated: Mar 16, 2014