Gov. Crist signs school prayer bill into law
Amid the Gulf oil spill, Florida Republican Party scandal and a host of other more eye-catching news, perhaps you missed the news that Gov. Crist signed into law HB 31, which prevents school districts from stopping teachers who wish to pray in school.
Originally, the bill would have allowed prayer or other "inspirational messages" at non-compulsory high school student events, including graduation. Lawmakers watered down the bill significantly amid constitutional concerns.
But they still hoped to deal with the issue of the Santa Rosa school district's consent decree banning all forms of prayer in the schools. Some argued this was unconstitutional infringement of teachers' First Amendment rights. Hence the final version.
Over on the webzine Religion Dispatches, writer Lauri Lebo guesses that the new law won't go without challenge despite its weaker final form:
"I have no doubt that those evangelical educators believe their First Amendment rights were being infringed by the consent decree. After all, don’t hide your light under a bushel. But school should not be a bully pulpit. As the courts have maintained, students have the right to go to school for an education free of teachers’ attempts to indoctrinate them to their religious beliefs."