SOMETHING strange is going on in and around Florida’s Gulf Coast area, in a range stretching from Tampa to the Alabama border. We suspect that a massive quantity of alligator urine has been polluting their water supply.
Your Curmudgeon found something interesting at the website of NorthEscambia.com, “your new online newspaper serving Molino, Century, Bratt, Walnut Hill and McDavid in North Escambia County, Florida.” They describe their area of interest like this:
There are nearly 18,000 people in the northern part of Escambia County that makes up our coverage area. There are several large schools, churches, employers, and one incorporated town (Century) in what is commonly called “The North End”.
Escambia County is at the far western end of the Florida panhandle. Its southern boundary is the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico, and on both its northern and western boundaries it’s surrounded by the state of Alabama. You can see it as that little purple thing in the upper left corner of this map: Florida counties.
As you might have guessed, Escambia is pretty much ground zero for creationism, but it doesn’t stop there. Rapturous Ronda Storms represents most of Hillsborough county, much farther down the coast near Tampa. So, partly because of the curving sweep of the coast, we’re calling this region The Florida Ark. (Another Curmudgeonism.)
NorthEscambia.com brings us this story: Bill Seeks To Return To Prayer To Schools. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
A bill authorizing prayer in public schools has been filed for consideration in next year’s legislative session, despite the ACLU and court rulings in Santa Rosa County.
Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, this week filed HB 31, released from bill drafting on Wednesday, that would allow school boards to permit prayer at a non-mandatory school event, such as an assembly, sporting event or other school-related activity. The bill has been proposed regularly over the past several years, but generally failed to gain any traction. Last year, neither the House or Senate versions even came to a committee vote.
This is Brad Drake’s page at the Florida legislature’s website, and this is a map of his district. It’s just east of Escambia county, but well within the Ark, so we can see why Drake’s activities are being reported by NorthEscambia.com. Here’s a link to the bill he’s pre-filed: HB 31 – Public Education. It’s an addition to an already existing law about education. Drake’s bill is quite short, so here it is in its entirety:
Section 1. Section 1003.4505, Florida Statutes, is created to read: 1003.4505 Inspirational message.–
(1) District school boards are authorized, but not required, to permit the delivery of an inspirational message, including a prayer or an invocation, at a noncompulsory high school activity, including a student assembly, a sports event, or other school-related activity, if a majority of the participating students request the delivery of an inspirational message and select a student representative to deliver the message.
(2) The purpose of this section is to provide for the solemnization and memorialization of noncompulsory high school events and ceremonies. This section shall not prohibit a school or school official from disciplining students in regard to unprotected speech or behavior that is inappropriate or disruptive.
Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2010.
This seems identical to a bill introduced into the Florida Senate last session by Ronda Storms, about which we wrote here: Florida’s Ronda Storms Wants Prayer in School. That one didn’t go anywhere, as we reported here, but we also noted that Drake had filed a companion bill in the Florida House. Drake was in sync with Ronda then, and we suspect that these two legislative dynamos will team up again this time around.
Let’s read on in the NorthEscambia.com article:
“I don’t think it’s fundamentally right when 700 kids want to pray in school and three are against it, the government sides with those three and prohibits children from having the opportunity to pray to God in our schools,” Drake said.
Yeah! Who cares about the constitutional niceties? Those unbelievers need to be kept in their place! We continue:
Drake, who campaigned on the issue, said it will be one of his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session. He said he has not yet spoken with Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, who sponsored the Senate version last year, but said he would ask her to do so again this year.
M’god! He campaigned on this issue. And he won! Here’s more:
In legislative analysis of last year’s Florida Senate version, analysts wrote that the bill could be subject to a constitutional challenge.
Imagine that! Here’s how the article ends:
The issue has been the subject of litigation for years in Florida and elsewhere. Duval County’s schools were embroiled in a fight over the issue in the early 2000s and most recently the ACLU and two Pace High School students sued the Santa Rosa County School District in the Panhandle over the alleged promotion of prayer at school events. A federal judge in May found in favor of the students and a consent decree prevented promotion of prayer. Several students later held a prayer protest at their graduation.
We linked to that opinion out of Santa Rosa County in one of our above-mentioned articles about last session’s bill. Here it is again.
We leave you with this thought: If school prayer is already going to be an issue in Florida’s next legislative session, is there any doubt that creationism will also be a hot topic? Stay tuned to this blog for all the creationism news from the Florida Ark.
Update: See School Prayer in Florida: March 2010 Update.
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