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School ‘prayer’ bill looks certain

by John Kennedy | February 22nd, 2012

A measure that  would let school boards authorize student-led “inspirational messages” – which critics condemn as a backdoor approach to  allowing prayer in classrooms — cleared a House panel Wednesday and looks likely to become Florida law.

The legislation (CS/SB 98) cleared the Judiciary Committee on a 12-5 vote. Republicans sided with the measure that most Democrats opposed and called an unconstitutional attempt to inject religion into schools.

House sponsor Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, disagreed.

“Two words in this bill will withstand any challenge,” Van Zant said. “Those two words are ‘inspirational messages.’ With those two words, this bill is about free speech.”

But Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, said the bill’s phrasing only masked its true intent — to allow prayer in schools from kindergarten through high school.

“It’s just a euphemism for prayer, because we can’t say prayer,” Steinberg said.

The committee’s action Wednesday is likely the last stop before the bill goes to the House floor. The Senate, which historically is a tougher sell on such controversial social issues, has already approved the measure. Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t raised any concerns about the measure.

“I think this is going to pass, with His will,” Van Zant told the Post after the vote.

The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Gary Siplin, an Orlando Democrat, would allow school boards to adopt policies giving students authority to deliver “an inspirational message,” during the student portion of any assembly. Administrators, teachers, coaches and other school personnel would be prohibited from reviewing the message or editing it.

Democrats fighting the proposal warned the measure would at least ensnare school districts in lengthy and costly lawsuits over any policy they adopted.

Critics also said the legislation could make students from minority religions feel especially uncomfortable. Religious views at odds with those of some students could spark deep divisions, they warned.

An ‘inspirational message’ policy also could force school districts to allow equal time for students to counterpoint whatever view was initially expressed. Opponents also questioned whether schools could limit these talks — raising the specter that students could deliver weird or inappropriate messages about sex and race, or even anti-religious talks.

While the conservative Liberty Counsel earlier told the Post it opposed the legislation — fearing it would spark lengthy and costly lawsuits for school districts, it now has joined the Florida Family Policy Council in supporting the legislation.

“I opposed the original Senate bill because it allowed only non-sectarian and non-proselytizing messages, which means it required the state to censor student speech,” said Mat Staver, chairman and founder of the Liberty Counsel.  “I believe students have the right to free speech. I support the amended version that removed the censorship language and which allows students to deliver a message of their choice.”


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7 Responses to “School ‘prayer’ bill looks certain”


    Thanks for violating my Constitutional rights.


    VOTE THEM OUT IN 2012.


  2. HM Says:

    Anyone who says ‘bring prayer back to school’ obviously worships a God who can’t know one’s thoughts. You can pray in school every minute of every day if you want to.

    But maybe God isn’t the chief concern here, right? What they want is a bunch of kids reciting something written at the local megachurch, from the highly lucrative and competitive industry known as ‘Christ, Inc.’

    This isn’t about ‘prayer in school’. This is about free advertising.

  3. kelly Says:

    Legislators talking about school prayer and abortion; get a clue! We need jobs! Stop wasting our time and money or get out of office. We didn’t vote for you to intrude on our lives.

    Is this what the tea party has wrought?

  4. Same Ole, Same Ole Says:

    Supernaturalism has no place in our “public” educational institutions, IMHO.

    Having said that, if parents in our free country want their kids taught there is an invisible man in the sky or whatever, that is their right at home . . . and in their religious schools.

    Herein lays a big problem: our tax dollars support “public” schools and force both all sorts of religious folks and us who are free of supernatural and mystical elements to finance this discombobulated educational mixed marriage.

    This ain’t gonna work of course as we have seen and is a primary reason for eliminating “public” education at a gigantic financial savings to all people in our country.

    Without the huge tax burden of “public” education, both religious institutions shall be well able to educate their parishioners’ kids as they wish and we science and logic types shall likewise be able to educate our children as we see fit.

    What’s the objection to this? What right has the political bureaucracy to dictate how we want our kids educated?

    UNLESS OF COURSE! . . . They think they know best and want to steal another of our freedoms.

    What do you think?

  5. Jupiter Guy Says:

    This is a great idea. Why you ask? Because the bible thumpers have just opened the door to allow all inspirational messages, including those of Muslims, to be said in school. They thought they were just going to allow the white christians, but this will allow all messages…ROFL. They aren’t as smart as they think.

  6. BigMistake Says:

    More smoke and mirrors from the radical right. Leaving this up to children? ‘Without parental involvement’? Get real! More Facebook problems around the corner. Keep Him in the heart and out of the school.

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