Attempts to create safeguards against “messages in of hate,” which some lawmakers warn could come about with the passage of the so-called “school prayer bill,” failed yesterday. The bill, unamended, will go to a final vote today.
The bill would allow students in public schools to give “inspirational messages,” including prayers, during all school events, but does not currently restrict what kind of messages could be delivered during those events. As the bill is currently written, school faculty would be prohibited from monitoring the messages, leading many lawmakers to raise concerns that the measure, if adopted, could end up giving students the ability to deliver hateful or racist messages at school events.
Democratic Rep. Martin Kiar introduced and subsequently withdrew his amendments, which would have prohibited students from giving any inspirational message that “could or would endanger the health and safety of children, distorts well-established historical facts, or [expresses] anti-American sentiments that are intended to disparage, either directly or indirectly, the United States of America.”
Kiar told members that he introduced his amendments to “make a point” about how troublesome the bill was, but he did not want to force his colleagues to make a ”politically damning vote.”
Another amendment, introduced by state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, would have required that schools choosing to adopt such policies give students an ethics course. Rehwinkel Vasilinda said she wanted to create a safeguard against potentially “divisive” language given by students in school events. That amendment also failed.