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

The Anti-Defamation League, one of the main opponents of a bill allowing for prayer during school events, is denouncing a recent move to only have the bill go through one more committee before a final vote.

The League has called the bill “divisive and constitutionally defective,” since it was first amended to remove a line that said “all prayers of invocation or benediction will be nonsectarian and nonproselytizing in nature.”

In a press release today, the group says it has urged the Senate Committee on Rules, which will be the last stop for the bill,  to oppose the legislation. League Religious Freedom Counsel David Barkey said in a statement:

We’re only going into the third week of the 2012 session, but this divisive and unconstitutional school prayer legislation is on a fast track to the Senate floor. Why is this religiously divisive legislation, which if enacted will undoubtedly cost school districts and the Florida taxpayer unnecessary litigation expenses, taking priority? But legislation addressing the epidemic of cyberbullying in our public schools, which effects children across religious, racial and ethnic lines, has yet to be heard by its first committee (Education Pre-K-12)? As set forth in ADL’s letters to all the Committees voting on the school prayer bill, public secondary school students have the right to privately pray alone or in groups during non-curricular time, form and participate in lunchtime Bible or religious clubs, or participate in after-school religious clubs. So given that students already have the right to pray in school, why does this legislation have priority over measures that would safeguard our children from the dangers of cyberbullying?

The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, has maintained that the bill stands on firm legal ground. However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League have publicly disagreed. The League has warned that if the measure is passed, the state will inevitably be sued — which could cost the state a large amount of money in litigation.

The League also noted today that the “legislation appears to be on a fast track as the Rules Committee is the last stop for this bill before going to the Senate floor.” The Senate Rules Committee will hear and vote on the bill at 1 p.m. Mon., Jan. 23.

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