The Louisiana Senate has unanimously passed a bill that will allow teachers and coaches to pray with students while on the job. If it becomes law, you can bet it’ll be the subject of a number of lawsuits since federal law prevents staffers from participating in student-led prayers.
State Sen. Ryan Gatti is behind SB 512, a bill that would let staffers pray with kids as long as it doesn’t interfere with their work and as long as every parent or legal guardian of the students in attendance “has submitted a signed request that the employee may participate in the gathering or pray with his child.”
Gatti believes this requirement will allow the bill to succeed where other attempts have failed.
… Sen. Gatti is cautiously optimistic that the measure will pass Constitutional scrutiny.
“Our approach is different and should work,” Sen. Gatti told BossierNow, then added: “No promises.”
“No promises” is right, because the problems are evident.
Gatti clearly wants, for example, a football coach to be able to pray with his athletes before a game. Right now, that’s illegal because it’s a form of coercion. If you’re an atheist on the team and you don’t want to join in the prayer circle, the coach’s participation would make you think twice. You don’t want to get on his bad side, since it could mean less playing time (or the accusation that you’re not a team player), which could lead to fewer opportunities for success or scholarships.
But the permission slips wouldn’t change that.
What if you’re a student whose parents don’t know you’re an atheist? Are you going to be forced to come out to them, or will you ask them to sign the form just so you can play along? It’s another kind of religious coercion. The students in that case would be pressured to keep their mouths shut and go along with the coach’s religion.
Not getting it signed by your parents would put an even larger target on your back since everyone would know you’re the reason the coach can’t pray with the team.
Students should never be put in a position where they have to decide between their religious beliefs or keeping their coach or teacher happy. This legislation would make that problem worse.
Remember: Students can already pray on their own. No one was ever stopping them. Asking the coaches, employed by the government, to keep their faith to themselves while on the job isn’t some onerous burden. It’s common sense.
He says denying students the ability to pray with faculty flies in the face of local culture.
“We’re just standing up for those teachers who want to be mentors to their students,” said Gatti. “We have a lot of schools up here, everybody goes to the same church and they shouldn’t be under a gag order.”
They’re not being gagged. The Bible makes very clear that prayer shouldn’t be public, anyway. And no one needs prayer to be a mentor. Just look at Gatti’s statement. He’s suggesting teachers who pray are somehow better than those who don’t, as if the ones who don’t pray don’t want to be role models to kids.
Only one state senator pushed back against the bill when it was in committee:
Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, cast the sole vote against the bill, expressing legal concerns. “This committee has heard this type of legislation for at least the 10 years that I’ve been here,” Appel said. “It’s always been the case of those cases that have come before us, that there’s been very expensive litigation coming from the aspect of having prayer with a teacher in a classroom.”
Appel was right. And then, like a typical Republican, he went ahead and voted for the bill when it actually counted.
This is a lawsuit waiting to happen — and taxpayers will be on the hook when the state loses. The question now is whether the members of the State House have the good sense to vote against this bill. Considering the GOP holds the majority of those seats, good sense is probably out of the question.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Katie for the link)