ORLANDO, Fla. -- President Reagan warned Tuesday against 'simple-minded appeasement' in the nuclear arms race with Moscow and, resurrecting Cold War rhetoric, said communism remains 'the focus of evil in the modern world.'
In a hardline speech to a group of evangelicals, Reagan said it would be wrong to 'ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding.'
'Simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly,' Reagan said. The issue, he said, is not simply the arms race but 'the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil.'
Addressing the 41st annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals only hours after the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a resolution calling on the administration to negotiate a nuclear arms freeze with Moscow, he deviated from his prepared text to attack the freeze movement.
'The truth is that a freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace,' he said. 'The reality is that we must find peace through strength.'
Reagan urged the evangelicals 'to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority.' A freeze at current levels, he said, would be 'virtually impossible' to verify, delay the modernization of allied nuclear forces and remove any incentive for the Soviets to negotiate arms reductions.
'I would agree to a freeze if only we could freeze the Soviets' global desires,' he said.
Reagan got a warm reception from the evangelicals, many of whom share his conservative ideology. They applauded enthusiastically at his defense of the so-called 'squeal rule' on birth control and at his remark that 'you and I must never rest' until Congress passes a ban on abortion.
The evangelicals gave Reagan an ovation and a band broke into 'Onward Christian Soldiers' as he left the podium.
Reagan aides acknowledged his rhetoric attacking the Soviets was sharper than any he has used in months. Spokesman Larry Speakes said the speech is part of a new drive by the president to underscore the nature of the Soviet threat in order to sell his defense policies at home and abroad.
Earlier, Reagan visited the futuristic new 260-acre Epcot Center at Disney World and talked to a group of math and science students about new technologies.
In his speech to the evangelicals, the president said political opponents are trying to discard 'the tried and time-tested values upon which our very civilization is based.' He promised anew to place such social issues as abortion and school prayer atop the nation's political agenda.
Reagan also pledged a court fight in defense of his teenage birth control regulation, dubbed the 'squeal rule' by critics. It has been blocked by a federal judge.
It would require that parents be notified when teenage girls receive birth control aids from federally financed clinics. Reagan called opposition to the rule'one example of many attempts to water down traditional values.'
'We are going to fight in the courts,' he said. 'The rights of parents and the rights of family take precedence over those of Washington-based bureaucrats and social engineers.'
Reagan decried the euphemistic substitution of the phrase 'sexually active' for the word 'promiscuous.'
'Girls termed 'sexually active' -- that has replaced the word 'promiscuous' -- are given this help in order to prevent illegitimate birth or abortion,' he said.
Reagan, who in recent weeks has intensified efforts to mend ties with the political and religious right, called again for a ban on abortion and said he will send Congress legislation this week to legalize school prayer, declaring, 'Let our children pray.'
Some of his sharpest words, however, came as Reagan tied traditional moral values to East-West relations.
Launching an attack on Soviet doctrine, Reagan said he will try hard to negotiate arms reductions with Moscow, but added, 'They must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards.'
'If history teaches anything, it teaches simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering ofour freedom,' he warned.
Reagan, who earlier in his presidency asserted the Soviets would lie and cheat to achieve global objectives, said, 'Let us pray for all those who live in that totalitarian darkness -- pray they will discover the joy of knowing God.'
'But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man and predict its eventual domination of all people of the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world,' he said.