School Prayer in Florida: March 2010 Update

OUR last report on this issue was here: School Prayer in Florida: It’s Back! In that post we reported that Rep. Brad Drake had pre-filed a bill for the next legislative session 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 legislature is in session now, so It’s time to re-visit the matter. We’re aware that Drake’s bill doesn’t strictly relate to The Controversy between evolution and creationism, but school prayer and teaching creationism usually involve similar motivation, and it’s often the same people who promote both kinds of law, so this is entirely relevant to our interests.

Drake’s proposal is now being actively considered in the 2010 session of the Florida Legislature. Here’s a link to the legislative history of the bill in the Florida House: HB 31. It was recently reported favorably out of the committee on Pre-K-12 Policy, and also by the Civil Justice & Courts Policy Committee. It is “Now in Policy Council,” whatever that means.

Here’s the companion bill in the Florida Senate: SB 1580. It’s been referred to the Education Pre-K – 12 and to the Judiciary committees. Apparently no action has yet been taken there. Interestingly, the Senate’s Education Pre-K – 12 Committee includes some familiar names from former creationist legislative attempts: Ronda Storms and Stephen Wise.

We don’t know where this thing is going, if anywhere. If it passes, it’ll probably end up in court. If it fails, it’s safe to predict that we’ll see it again — or something like it — in years to come.

Addendum: According to this pdf file at the Florida Senate’s website, the legislative session is scheduled to end on 30 April 2010.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “School Prayer in Florida: March 2010 Update

  1. Thank the FSM!!!! It’s about time his noodlyness got some love from school kids.

  2. Hey, SC, no doubt the blame lies with your pronounced modesty, but you forgot to highlight Ronda’s greatest claim to fame, which helps us dear readers fully understand the kind and scope of support Ronda brings to the value of Drake’s proposal, is her AWARD from the Sensuous Curmudgeon. There is the name, Ronda Storms of I Believe license plate fame, right down there on the side bar under Buffoon Award Winners.

  3. Arggh! What a moronic piece of legislation. Students have always had the right to have prayer in non-mandatory settings. The kicker is that school employees can’t lead them, if I remember my larnin’ correctly. That whole “government endorsing a religion” thing. And thanks you LRA, because you suddenly gave me an image of 30 different prayers shouting out over each other to a variety of different beings and pure chaos erupting. And I know some pretty intelligent kids that could and would do just that. Pretty sure that isn’t what the bill authors had in mind, but there lack of imagination doesn’t defend them from people who do have one, now doesn’t it?

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    Students have always had the right to have prayer in non-mandatory settings.

    No.

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/11/valedictorian-sues-stop-high-school-graduation-prayer/

    http://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/aclu-nebraska-sues-over-graduation-prayer-family-complained-fears-retaliation

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=50297

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jun/09060510.html

    Graduation and ball games and award ceremonies and dinners are all, according to the ACLU, to be prayer-free.

    The two teachers at Pace High School were Principal Frank Lay and school teacher Michelle Winkler. The ACLU alleges that during a dinner event held at the school, Principal Lay asked the athletic director to bless the meal. In another incident, the ACLU alleges that Michelle Winkler’s husband, who is not a school board employee, offered prayer at an awards ceremony

    According to the ACLU lawsuit, graduation ceremonies during the past five years at Central, Jay, Milton, Navarre and Pace High Schools in the Santa Rosa District have included prayers by students – often members of groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the Christian World Order. The graduation ceremonies at Santa Rosa Adult School and Santa Rosa Learning Academy also have included prayers.

    Leading up to the graduation ceremony, the ACLU demanded that Pace High School censor students from offering prayers or saying anything religious. In the end, members of the student body were not permitted to speak at the graduation.

    I think the free exercise clause is just as valuable as the establishment clause. Prayers at graduation and ball games and the like neither break my leg nor pick my pocket. I am not required to say anything or pay any attention, and if I find it a offensive I am free not to attend.

  5. Gabriel Hanna

    Students have always had the right to have prayer in non-mandatory settings.

    No, they don’t.

    The two teachers at Pace High School were Principal Frank Lay and school teacher Michelle Winkler. The ACLU alleges that during a dinner event held at the school, Principal Lay asked the athletic director to bless the meal. In another incident, the ACLU alleges that Michelle Winkler’s husband, who is not a school board employee, offered prayer at an awards ceremony

    According to the ACLU lawsuit, graduation ceremonies during the past five years at Central, Jay, Milton, Navarre and Pace High Schools in the Santa Rosa District have included prayers by students – often members of groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the Christian World Order. The graduation ceremonies at Santa Rosa Adult School and Santa Rosa Learning Academy also have included prayers.

    Leading up to the graduation ceremony, the ACLU demanded that Pace High School censor students from offering prayers or saying anything religious. In the end, members of the student body were not permitted to speak at the graduation.

    Prayers at graudation or ball games don’t break your leg or pick your pocket, and you’re not required to agree, follow along, pay attention, or attend. The free exercise clause is just as valuable as the establishment clause.

  6. tildeb says: “you forgot to highlight Ronda’s greatest claim to fame”

    We haven’t forgotten. But I don’t think she’s a sponsor of this bill, so I saw no need to give her credit.

  7. I understand your reluctance. It speaks eloquently of your character.

    But like Academy Award winners, those who win such coveted awards should always include the title with the name. After all, she so richly deserves the honor.

  8. Michael Fugate

    Gabriel,
    You can always pray silently to your preferred diety – any time, any place. No one can stop you and frankly, that is where prayer belongs.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    @Michael Fugate:

    And you can hold whatever political opinions you want, as long as you keep them to yourself. Frankly, no one can stop you, and that is where political opinions belong.

    If I had the right to sue you and get injunctions to prevent you from speaking your opinions publicly, you wouldn’t have free speech.

    I myself don’t have a deity, but I don’t believe in trampling the rights of other people to have one. The government ought not to sponsor religion, and it ought not to prevent people from practicing one.

  10. @Gabriel, so are you saying you support this bill?

  11. Gabriel Hanna

    @RogerE, if this is what the bill really does

    Prohibits district school boards, administrative personnel, & instructional personnel from discouraging or inhibiting student delivery of inspirational message at noncompulsory high school activity; prohibits district school boards, administrative personnel, & instructional personnel from taking affirmative action that infringes or waives rights or freedoms afforded by First Amendment to United States Constitution.

    then not only is there nothing objectionable about it, but this is what people like Albanaeon already think the law is.

    This is not a law saying that the teachers or the principals can offer up prayers in school, and your kids have to sit there and listen.

  12. This is a tacit endorsement of religion (and usually a particular religion, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and a blatant attempt to insert religion into school activities. Most of the arguments that Gabriel makes for it being OK in this case are the same as could be made for allowing the same activities at any compulsory school activity or even in the classroom.

  13. Michael Fugate

    So a law which states the 1st amendment exists and should be enforced. That’s a law we really need. Why not just rewrite the 1st amendment and submit it as a law. If this isn’t about injecting religion into public schools, then nothing is. This is about only one part of the 1st amendment – the one that favors Florida’s dominant religion. They will be praying at football and basketball games, at concerts – you name it – and if you don’t like you don’t have to show up.

    And by the way, not saying prayers at a football game in no way inhibits anyone’s practice of religion.

  14. Gabriel Hanna

    Maybe you ought to read some of those links, Michael Fugate, and see what the law is a reaction to.

    The law ought not to be necessary. But some people can’t let others be; they have to sue them to shut them up.

    When the government used to compel people to pray in a certain way and attend a certain church, that was wrong.

    But how are your rights infringed by hearing someone else pray, at an event which you are not compelled to attend? Where in the Constitution is your right to shut people up who say things you don’t like?

    It’s like when Michael Newdow sued over the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s not that his daughter had to SAY the Pledge; since the 1940’s, thanks to Jehovah’s Witnesses, no one has to say the Pledge in school. No, he was offended that she had to hear OTHER people say the Pledge in school. And so he sued and wasted his school district’s money, which could have been used for much better things.

    You want a case for religion illegally brought into school at taxpayer expense, try this one, which has nothing to do with Florida’s dominant religion:

    http://minnesotaindependent.com/24066/aclu-files-suit-against-mn-muslim-school

    This is what the violation of the establishement clause looks like–teachers and students forced to attend and participate in religious activities.

    You don’t have the right to force people not to be publicly religious.

  15. It’s unfortunate that people don’t have the courtesy and respect for others to keep their religious beliefs out of the public domain.

  16. Michael Fugate

    Why do they get to pray at public events? – is this a constitutional right to pray at every event? How does it inhibit religion if someone can’t pray at a public event?Does every one get an open mike to say what is on their mind? What purpose does this serve?

    Sure thousands of school administrators don’t understand the constitution – seems like an opportunity for education not a new law promoting religion.

  17. Gabriel, if you don’t see the problems with this, I don’t know how to show you. Allowing religious observances into school activities, even when not compulsory, is a form of indoctrination and can be coercive, especially when we are talking about minors who don’t have fully formed judgment and are very prone to just going along with their peers. Tell a kid, “well, you don’t have to go, but all your friends will be there”, “you don’t have to bow your head during the prayer, but your classmates will notice and start thinking you are some sort of anti-Christian (does anyone really doubt that these won’t be dominated by a Christian viewpoint?)”, “even though this is a school-related activity, it has nothing to do with promoting religion, but if you don’t go or act the right way, just remember you have to go to class with these same people next week”, “you want to make an offering to your pagan god, do the Islamic Salaat, recite the Shema Yisrael or give an ‘inspirational message’ about being an atheist? Sorry, a larger group of students has beat you out.”

    Freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression are not absolutes, especially when it comes to children.

  18. retiredsciguy

    Before voting on this bill, the Florida legislators should all read Matthew 6:5-6 —

    5″And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    These are probably the most ignored words of Jesus in the bible.

  19. retiredsciguy

    The legislators should also consider that there’s going to be some devil-worshiping student demanding that he/she has the right to deliver whatever prayer he/she wants, with no administrative censorship. Do they really want to open Pandora’s Box?

  20. How ironic that Ken Ham refers to “evolutionary termites” when it’s his side that likes to slowly undermine and chip away at things.

  21. retiredsciguy

    The Florida legislators have been busy diddling with education of late. The Florida Senate just passed a bill mandating that teacher’s salaries shall be based on their students’ performance on standardized tests. This would only apply to newly hired teachers.

    Good luck recruiting teachers, Florida.