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Nov 03 2011

Florida committee takes aim at First Amendment

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.

Ya think?

8 comments

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  1. 1
    mikespeir

    I wish it were possible to get people’s honest opinions in polls. I’d love to see how many Floridians–not just the loudmouths–really support this kind of crap.

    1. 1.1
      AJS

      Unfortunately, most people answer polls with the answer they believe the questioner is expecting — and which can be indicated clearly by careful phrasing of the question.

      This is a limitation of the universe (specifically, a manifestation of an instinctive behaviour of gregarious predators) as opposed to a limitation of present-day technology.

  2. 2
    unbound

    So, neither the committee making the recommendation nor the reporter reporting on the situation has sufficient brain power to figure out that this is a clear first amendment violation?

    If the reporter would accurately state that Florida is looking at doing something that is direct conflict with the first amendment which will result in many lawsuits causing the state to spend money needlessly, I wonder if people might stand up and make their voices heard.

    Then again, the fourth estate hasn’t been doing their job for several decades either…

  3. 3
    Ahcuah

    You know, teen-age kids are teen-age kids. They’ll vote in a lesbian for Prom King, partly for justice, but partly also because it causes school administrators to have a heart attack.

    Let’s see what happens the first time the “inspirational message” includes a call to Satan.

  4. 4
    d cwilson

    So, the thing to do is at the next “non-compulsory” school event, preferrably in the home district of the primary sponsor of this measure, line up as many Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, Satanist, Wiccan, and Pastafarian students as they can find and have each of them initiate a prayer to their respective religions.

    One at a time. If anyone objects, cite the measure, word-for-word.

    Then watch the heads explode.

  5. 5
    Worldtraveller

    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.

    Hah! Hypocritical idiot. ‘Sure, fuck the atheists, we’re going to be praying in our schools!’ Followed almost immediately by ‘ Wait, we want our turn to push our religion too! Waaahhh, I’m taking my ball and going home.’

    The way it’s worded, it might be borderline legal, given that teachers aren’t allowed to choose the prayers, and it only has to be at extracurricular activities, but they are skirting so close to previous, rather well settled, law, that it would have to go all the way to the SCOTUS to be allowed, based on a prima facie reading of the text of the law.

    This is probably exactly what they want.

    1) They get to waste thousands of the district’s money, thereby proving how bad the public schools are.
    2) They get to claim persecution for ‘standing up for jeebus’.
    3) They think they might have a SCOTUS that got stacked enough by Shrub to have a chance.

    Dishonest fuckwits, every last one of them.

  6. 6
    Woody Tanaka

    Dear Canada,

    I’m finally ready to abandon the USA because of these Jesus freaks in Florida and Texas and you would be perfect, but then you have to ruin by having winter and shit. So, in conclusion, fuck you, Canada for being cold sometimes.

    -Woody.

    P.S., I still love you a little bit.

    1. 6.1
      cottonnero

      There’s been some talk of incorporating the Turks and Caicos Islands (and some other UK Caribbean islands) into Canada. Maybe that’s your ticket.

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