ACLU of Florida denounces school prayer bill ahead of committee stop 1 - Florida Independent

State Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando (Pic by Minority Office, via flsenate.gov)

A bill that would allow prayer in schools during school events is set to make a stop at a state Senate Judiciary committee meeting today. The American Civil Liberties of Florida sent out a release yesterday, warning that the bill would “skirt the Constitutional protections of religious liberty.”

According to a press release from the ACLU:

The bill they are considering, Senate Bill 98, would let school districts overrule the objections of religious minorities and organize school-sponsored prayer under the banner of student government. Under the bill, school officials would be able to skirt the Constitutional protections of religious liberty by letting students actually vote on what kind of prayers the school will allow and conduct.

Religious expression is an individual liberty and shouldn’t be put to a vote like a Prom King or Homecoming Court. SB98 would give schools free reign to make students feel like outsiders in the classroom, alienated from their peers, or compelled by peer pressure to engage in religious practices that go against their own beliefs.

Other civil rights groups have already expressed concern with this bill. The Anti-Defamation League immediately spoke out against the bill, claiming it is “divisive and constitutionally defective.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to policy-makers last November warning that the bill is “patently unconstitutional.”

The Foundation warned state Sens. Gary Siplin, Anitere Flores and Arthenia Joyner that “the United States Constitution is clear and the Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear-prayer is not permitted in public schools.”

“Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students,” the group wrote. “It is settled law that public school cannot allow a student to deliver a prayer before any school-sponsored event. Senate Bill 98 is patently unconstitutional.”

One of the sponsor’s, state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, has said that he believes his bill is constitutional.

”We think we have very good legal grounds,” he said. “It is constitutional.”

Groups already threatened legal action and pointed out that this could lead to costly litigation for the state.

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