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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

School prayer bill nears House floor



The so-called school prayer bill is zooming toward the House floor.

On Monday, the House Education Committee approved the proposal by a 9-6 vote.

All six Democrats on the panel voted no.

The proposal comes from Sen. Gary Siplin, a Democrat from Orlando. It would allow student volunteers to deliver inspirational messages at public-school functions. School district employees could not participate or control the message.

Siplin's bill found some bi-partisan support in the Senate, where it was recently approved on the floor.

Not so in the House Education Committee, despite pleas from Siplin before the vote took place.

Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said the proposal would open the door to hate speech in public schools.

Said Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami: "I have a big, big concern with first-graders and kindergartners determining what is an appropriate inspirational message."

Republicans countered that the bill would teach tolerance, and help restore respect and discipline to the public school system.

"All this bill does is allow for kids to inspire one another," said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami. "It is as simple as that."

[Last modified: Monday, February 13, 2012 1:16pm]


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