Florida legislators — led by Florida Senator Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) and Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-Keystone Heights) — want to make praying at public school events completely legal.
Any district school board may adopt a resolution allowing the use of an inspirational message, including, but not limited to, prayers of invocation or benediction, at secondary school commencement exercises or any other noncompulsory student assembly.
But don’t freak out, church/state separation advocates! The legislators aren’t trying to advance religion! They say so in the bill:
The purpose of this act is to provide for the solemnization and memorialization of secondary school events and ceremonies, and this act is not intended to advance or endorse any religion or religious belief.
See? If they say that, it must be true.
Unless, of course, the majority of people are Christians.
And the representatives of the student governments that have to approve the prayers are overwhelmingly Christian.
And the student volunteers who deliver the invocations are Christian.
This law is being considered only because Christians make up the majority of the population. The second a Muslim student praises Allah, you know all hell is going to break loose.
Emily Krueger of Americans United calls this bill “regrettable,” “unnecessary,” and “unconstitutional.”
SB 98 is completely unnecessary — Florida students already have many opportunities to pray in school. The U.S. and Florida Constitutions already guarantee students the right to engage in voluntary, student-initiated religious expression during non-instructional time. In addition, Florida law allows school districts to provide up to two minutes each day for students to silently pray. The bill is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem.
SB 98 would allow those of the majority faith to promote their religious beliefs and practices at public school events. Indeed, the Senate Education Committee even eliminated language from the bill that had required the prayers to be “non-sectarian and nonproselytizing.” This would make students who believe in minority faiths and who are non-believers feel like “outsiders” in and not like “full members” of their own public schools. This is one of the very harms the First Amendment exists to prevent.
So why is Siplin insistent on passing these bills?
Said sponsor Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando: “All I’m trying to do is allow those School Boards and those students who want to partake in this type of activity [the opportunity] to do that.”
They already have that option. This bill is just a way for Siplin and his Christian counterparts to advance their faith through political means. It needs to be stopped.