The Florida legislature just passed a bill to allow many forms of prayer in schools that is so bad that even the wingnuts of Liberty Counsel think it goes too far and should not be made into law. The Palm Beach Post reports:
But the Liberty Counsel, an influential Orlando-based nonprofit that advances religious freedom issues, told the Post that it would urge House members to defeat Van Zant’s proposal.
“I’m an advocate of student speech,” said Mat Staver, founder of the counsel. “But this bill will run into constitutional problems and I don’t think it’s right to make school districts litigate this issue again — and they will have to.”
Staver said he was involved for eight years in a lawsuit stemming from the Duval County School Board’s approval of allowing student-led prayer at high school graduation ceremonies. In a court battle that stretched to the U.S. Supreme Court, prayers were eventually upheld — generally as long as they’re voluntary.
Here’s the bottom line:
Michael Allen, a constitutional law professor at Stetson University, said the fight over how far school prayer should go is almost always ready to be reignited. The “war on religion” theme has coursed through the presidential campaign, Allen pointed out.
He also said advocates on opposing sides are committed, and willing to engage in the legal siege any legislation to change existing standards will naturally trigger.
Indeed, the ACLU said Monday that if Van Zant’s proposal becomes law, the organization would almost certainly sue to declare it unconstitutional.
But at a time when many critics are examining the size and cost of government, Allen questioned whether it was right for lawmakers to enact laws which likely will require county school boards — and local taxpayers — to pay at least thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend them.
“You know the lawsuits will be filed against counties that try to enact a school prayer policy,” Allen said. “It really amounts of a form of unfunded mandate. You know the Legislature’s not going to pay the legal costs.”
It’s another variation of the Dover trap.