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Bill legalizing school prayer sent to governor's desk

JACKSON — The House has sent a bill to Gov. Phil Bryant that could legalize student prayer before school audiences.

Senate Bill 2633 is also meant to guarantee religious freedom in Mississippi public schools, ensuring students can talk about spiritual beliefs and not be deprived of their rights.

The House voted 108-6 for final passage of the bill yesterday without debate.

The measure would guarantee student rights to talk about faith in class and allow them to organize religious clubs. Sponsors, in legislative debate, have said teachers and school administrators are confused about what religious expression is legal, and that the state needs a law to keep schools from wrongly suppressing religion.

But the proposal, modeled in part on a law passed in Texas, would also create a path to allow students to pray at football games and graduations and during morning announcements.

It suggests naming such events as “limited public forums.” The proposal sets out a model policy districts could adopt, specifying that certain groups of students would be allowed to speak on such occasions. Students could pray, or not, and the school would state it’s not responsible for student actions.

Both proponents and opponents of the proposed law say organized school prayer remains widespread in Mississippi, despite opponents’ efforts to curtail it. In October, for example, the ACLU sent a letter to the Lincoln County school system demanding a halt to routine prayer at West Lincoln High School.

Bear Atwood, interim director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, has said this bill could force students to listen to someone else’s religious expression. She said that’s the same problem that led judges to strike down a previous Mississippi law allowing student-led prayer.

Proponents, including radio host Paul Ott, say they think returning prayer to public schools would help reduce discipline problems and bullying.


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  1. Jaine Bartlett

    I am wholeheartedly in favor of prayer in our schools. The statement that people would be “forced” to listen to prayer is ridiculous! Aren’t they “forced” to listen to music, vulgar language, opposing opinions, etcetera? Perhaps hearing someone pray for them will be helpful. It certainly won’t harm anyone!

  2. I agree w Jamie Bartlett in the post above. Allah is the one true God and Mohammed is his prophet. We were put on this earth to spread His word and His message. No one is forcing students to listen to one or two minutes of classroom led verses in the Quran anymore than they are forced to listen to math problems in class.

  3. This is a blatant violation of the separation between church and state. No one has EVER made a law saying you cannot talk about religion or faith. The taxpayers money, my money as an atheist should not be spent to support praying at sports events, school classrooms, etc. Anyone who thinks this is right should be told “O.K. we will read from the Koran, the Talmud, etc”. They would suddenly change their minds.
    People who support this kind of thing tend to always be christians who somehow feel their beliefs need to be pushed on everyone else because they personally believe it is true. School is not a place for religion. Religious groups have their churches across the street from other churches. They can pray all day long anywhere they want. They cannot and should not have the government sponsoring, supporting or helping them share their beliefs over other beliefs or other groups.

  4. This is a violation of the U.S. constitution. As such it is un-American and anyone proposing such legislation is a traitor to this country.
    In 1972 as president of a Toastmasters club I substituted an opening prayer with an inspirational thought for the day. It is still the opening and the club is better off.sionhedi

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