The North Dakota Senate overwhelmingly passed House Bill 1275 yesterday, weeks after the House did the same thing, and that means students are a few legislative hurdles away from finally being allowed to pray at athletic events.
Maybe you’re wondering: Can’t they already do that?
Of course they can! No one was ever stopping student-initiated prayers. But leave it to conservative legislators to put a bandage over a wound that doesn’t exist.
State Rep. Kim Koppelman proposed the legislation after a 2015 playoff game between two Christian high schools — a state-sponsored event, even though it took place at a religious school — didn’t include a prayer over the public address system (because that would’ve been illegal). Rather than sue the North Dakota High School Activities Association — a fight they would’ve easily lost — Koppelman told the angry Christians he would sponsor legislation to protect prayers instead.
That’s why the original version of his bill said prayers over the PA system would be okay if the event took place at a religious school… but that was a lawsuit waiting to happen since the Supreme Court has already ruled against it, so his bill was never going to work as written.
HB 1275 was eventually altered to say students could initiate prayers at school-sponsored events. Which has always been legal. So this is meaningless.
House members now have to approve the changes, though it’s not certain they’ll agree to the amendment.
But it doesn’t matter. Have I said that already?
Maybe the strangest reaction to the amended bill came from Republican State Sen. Oley Larsen:
“Here we are in 2017 dealing with the separation of church and state which should not exist in the first place. As an instructor, I can lead a prayer in my classroom because I’m not having the State of North Dakota, my classroom will not be the Church of North Dakota,” said [Larsen].
Separation of church and state shouldn’t exist? This guy thinks leading prayers in a classroom is okay?! Do any of these legislators in North Dakota have any clue what the law permits and doesn’t?
Maybe they should stop wasting everyone’s time and take a damn civics class.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Mitch for the link)