Looks like some “concerned Christians” in Florida are setting themselves up for a fairly blatant violation of the First Amendment. This time, however, it’s not going to be a local school board. It’s the state itself.
School prayer is one step closer to being legalized in Florida after a proposal was passed in a state Senate committee Wednesday despite strong opposition to the measure.
The bill, if signed into law, would allow school boards to adopt rules that allow “inspirational messages” at school events, according to reports.
The vague language leaves room for schools to allow prayers at events hosted at the school, including sporting games and graduations.
Is this just an innocent oversight? Not a bit. The committee deliberately avoided including any language that might have restricted these “inspirational messages” to nonsectarian content—over the objections of at least one committee member.
The measure passed Florida’s Senate Education committee with a 4 to 1 vote.
Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, who is Jewish, opposed the bill, after initially giving it her support, because it did not include language mandating that the message of the prayer should be nonsectarian, reported the Sun Sentinel.
The angle being worked by Christians this time is that, by getting the school to sponsor student-led prayers, they can promote Christianity while avoiding the historical objection to prayers being led by paid state officials.
The bill, which was also proposed in 2009 and in 2010, allows students to initiate prayers at non-compulsory school events. Teachers and other school officials, however, would not be allowed to lead or participate in the prayers.
The catch is that it’s already legal for students to pray. The First Amendment issue is over whether or not they have official state support for doing so, and whether or not such official sponsorship will extend equally to non-Christians, like Jews and Muslims. And Pastafarians.
The measure, if passed, could open the state up to lawsuits as groups question the constitutionality of the bill.