Florida School Prayer Bill for 2012

We put the year in our title, because this issue has come up before and we don’t want our titles to get confused. The Florida legislature has shown alarming signs of advancing lunacy ever since we started this blog in 2008. That was the year when rapturous Ronda Storms (along with others) nearly passed a bill forcing creationism into the public schools.

But it’s not only creationism that motivates the lawmakers. In 2009 we posted School Prayer in Florida: It’s Back! There was also a creationism bill that year from Senator Stephen R. Wise, but it didn’t go anywhere.

In 2010 the lawmakers were quiet about creationism, but we posted Ronda Storms & Prayer in Florida Schools.

In 2011, the legislature passed a constitutional amendment that will be voted on by the citizens in 2012, allowing churches to raid the state treasury. See Florida’s Theocratic Constitutional Amendment, #7. There was also the usual creationism bill, but see Florida’s 2011 Creationism Bill: Probably Dead.

In 2012, things have been quiet (so far) regarding creationism, but the issue of prayer in the public schools has returned. At the website of the CBS television station in Miami we read “School Prayer” Bill Ready For Florida Senate Vote. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The Florida Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on a controversial bill that could bring prayer into Florida schools, if school districts allow. Students would be allowed to lead prayers or give inspirational messages, and under the proposal, there would be virtually no limit to what can be said.

That’s just lovely. Who is behind this year’s bill? We are told:

The bill, sponsored by Orlando Senator Gary Siplin, has just one prohibition; that adults could not deliver the messages. But if a student wanted a PA mike to deliver a Bhu29392dist [[sic, presumably that’s “Buddhist”] message at a football game, or if a student wanted to lead his classroom in a Muslim prayer, that would be permitted, along with evangelical messages, Wiccan prayers, and more.

As we discussed here, Ronda Storms, Ronda Storms, the Florida creationism queen has a Democrat ally, Senator Gary Siplin. According to Wikipedia, Gary Siplin “is the first convicted felon to serve in the Florida Legislature, and sponsored legislation that would restore voting rights to himself and other convicted felons.” Let’s read on from the news article:

Messages must be inspirational and delivered by a student, but the law not only [doesn’t] define ‘inspirational’, it specifically prohibits school districts from doing so.

That’s a garbled sentence. By going to Siplin’s page at the legislature’s website, Senator Gary Siplin, and clicking on the “Bills Introduced” tab, we find his legislative masterpiece: SB 98: Education. It says:

Section 1.(1)A district school board may adopt a policy allowing an inspirational message to be delivered by students at a student assembly. The policy must provide that:

Section 1.(1) (a) Students who are responsible for organizing any student-led portion of a student assembly shall:

Section 1.(1) (a) 1. Have sole discretion in determining whether an inspirational message is to be delivered.

Section 1.(1) (a) 2.Choose the student volunteers who will deliver an inspirational message. The student volunteers shall be solely responsible for the preparation and content of the inspirational message.

Section 1.(1) (b) School district personnel may not:

Section 1.(1) (b) 1. Participate in, or otherwise influence, the determination of whether an inspirational message is to be delivered or select the student volunteers who will deliver the inspirational message.

Section 1.(1) (b) 2. Monitor or otherwise review the content of a student volunteer’s inspirational message.

Section 1. (2) The purpose of this section is to provide students with the opportunity for formal or ceremonious observance of an occasion or event.

Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2012.

We’ve seen worse. And we note that rapturous Ronda Storms is a co-introducer. This is so sweet — Storms and Siplin, together again. The news article continues:

While the bill originally would have made it clear that prayers could only be offered at events students aren’t required to attend, now the bill would allow prayer at any school event.

That’s nice — prayers at compulsory events. And now we hear from rapturous Ronda:

Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, said she couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want students to hear inspirational messages at the start of an assembly. “Do you suppose opponents want, instead of to inspire little first graders, maybe they want to demoralize them?” asked Storms.

Brilliant, as always. So there you are. Oh, wait — there’s a companion bill in the Florida House: H 317, introduced by Charles E. Van Zant, with co-introducers Campbell; Drake; Julien; Rooney; and Sands. Great legislators, all.

We may yet see a new creationism bill in Florida. This legislative session won’t end until 09 March. If not, that’s okay. Siplin’s bill will do the job of getting religion into the schools.

Addendum: According to the Miami Herald, Siplin’s bill passed in the Senate. See: Senate approves school prayer bill.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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5 responses to “Florida School Prayer Bill for 2012

  1. Just wait until some clever students choose to deliver satirical Pastafarian messages at their school assemblies.

  2. Ah, but Ed, you forget two things. One is that school districts may adopt this policy – but they don’t have to. The second is that the student body picks the speaker.

    So, basically, we can expect that in any district where the student body would do such irreprobate things as you suggest, the adult administrators will choose not to adopt the policy. Meanwhile, overwhelmingly homogenous districts where the student body itself would prevent any nonchcristian from getting on stage will adopt it.

  3. Slight addendum: in the districts where both the student body supports muticultural inspiratonal messages, and the administration supports multicultural inspiratonal messages, the law will work. But then, in those districts, it probably wasn’t needed anyway.

  4. I have not read this bill yet, but from what is stated here it appears to be very similar to the ‘Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act’ now law in Texas and similar to Oklahoma House Bill 1001. These bills allow religion into many aspects of public schools. The Oklahoma bill keeps coming up. It was vetoed by the Democratic Governor three years ago, but keeps getting introduced. Last session it passed the Ed Committee 9-7, but was not heard on the House Floor during the waning days of the session. It remains as a carry over and could be considered in this session.

    The Texas bill was opposed strongly by the Texas School Board Association, Texas Freedom Network, and other groups. Last year, in preparation for offering comments before the Oklahoma House Ed Committee I contacted the Texas School Board Association legislative representative for information and was told that the Association strongly advised school districts not to adopt the provisions of the bill, due to possible legal problems, etc.

  5. comradebillyboy

    When I was in 9th grade in Tallahassee Fla. back in ’62 we had mandatory teacher led prayer right out of the King James bible. The schools were still segregated at that time (as was everything else in the southern states). At the Christmas assembly I remember our principal telling us that we should “all thank God that we were not born black…” I sort of made my first connection between religion and racism at that school. Prior to 9th grade I lived in western states where de jure segregation was not practiced. We didn’t even have prayer in school in Utah back then and the state was completely Mormon controlled when I lived there. Now the proportion of Southern Baptists is much lower than it used to be in Florida. Will all of the Jews and Cuban Catholics and non Christians want to recite prayers from King James now?