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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

School prayer bill en route to governor



After impassioned debate, the so-called school prayer bill passed the House by an 88-27 vote.

If the bill becomes law, local school districts could allow student volunteers to deliver "inspirational messages" in public schools. Teachers and other school employees could not take part or have any say in the message.

Advocates for the bill stressed that participation would optional.

Some said it would teach tolerance and restore respect to classrooms.

“Our students are inundated with sex, gambling and all of the moral decay that’s on our televisions and radios,” said Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach. “It is time that we allowed... students to bring inspirational messages to share with each other.”

Opponents said the bill was unconstitutional -- and could lead to bullying.

"What I’m concerned about [is that] the bill’s sponsor said these kids could say anything they want," said Rep. Martin Kiar, D-Davie. "They could distort well-established historical facts. A child could preach that the Holocaust never occurred." 

The proposal is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott said he hadn’t yet seen the bill.

“But I believe that individuals ought to be able to have the right to pray in schools,” he said.

The Anti-Defamation League urged Scott to veto the legislation, noting "the legal costs that school districts will undoubtedly incur when this measure is challenged in the courts."

[Last modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 12:39pm]


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