Senate passes school prayer billby Dara Kam | February 1st, 2012
After a heartfelt debate from both sides, the Florida Senate approved a measure authorizing student-led prayers at schools as long as adults are not involved.
The “inspirational messages” proposal (SB 98), proposed by Orlando Democratic Sen. Gary Siplin and approved by a 31-8 vote, would allow school boards to adopt policies granting students the right to have prayers at any school assembly but school administrators, teachers, coaches or other personnel from scrutinizing or participating in the prayers.
A handful of Democrats argued against the bill, saying students already have the opportunity to pray privately objecting that the measure could create divisiveness.
“We don’t have an issue in the state of Florida with the lack of ability of public school students to pray openly.
What we want to do is keep our public school kids with the one inspirational message they all need: study, study, study.
When they come to the school they can park their religious beliefs at home,” said Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who is Catholic.
But Sen. Joe Negron argued that schools have gone too far in limiting students’ speech.
“We’ve gone from one extreme now to the other extreme. We’ve gone from neutrality toward religion to hostility to religion,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.
Some senators of both parties who previoulsy voted against school prayer bills spoke in favor of the measure, including a warning from that the bill may backfire.
Inspirational messages are OK, Sen. Nancy Detert said.
“And when it becomes not OK, when you get little smart-alecky kids who are going to proselytize the Koran…That’s when your school board should shut it down,” Detert, R-Venice, said.