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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

To pray or not to pray, that has become the question for many states



The Florida House raised quite a few eyebrows this year when it resurrected a bill thought dead on its side of the Capitol, one that would permit students to pray in school. The Senate had pushed through the "inspirational message" legislation after it had languished for years, but the measure wasn't moving in its first House committee with time ticking away.

Even the House sponsor didn't think the bill had a prayer. Then leadership breathed new life into SB 98, scheduling it for hearings and putting it on the fast track to adoption even amid criticism from civil rights and religious rights groups.

Now the bill has headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk, and some religious leaders are now urging him to kill it. As columnist John Romano writes, some men of the cloth are not interested in seeing the lines between school and religion blurred.

"The separation of church and state is an American creation,'' the Rev. Harold Brockus told Romano. "It's been good for the country, it's been good for the religious community … to keep the two separate."

Florida is not the only state to be dealing with such an issue. In Tennessee, the state Senate approved a proposal this week that would go a step further in allowing school employees to pray with students at school, so long as the students initiated the activity. Florida, by contrast, would tell school employees to avoid interaction with the student prayer.

Lawsuits are expected. What should be the outcome? Do schools need prayer? Should teachers be permitted to pray with students? Or, as some have said, is prayer already in school every time a kid takes a test?

[Last modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 8:06am]


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