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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate approves school prayer bill



The Florida Senate on Wednesday approved a bill allowing schoolchildren to deliver "inspirational messages" at student assemblies. The measure passed by a vote of 31-8.

If the bill were to become law, local school boards would first have to adopt a policy allowing for inspirational messages. Any messages would have to be led by student volunteers -- and no school board member or district employee could interfere.

The proposal, by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, looked quite different from the version that sailed through several committees last month. That earlier version said inspirational messages could include "prayers of invocation or benediction" -- and could only take place at noncompulsory student assemblies at secondary schools.

The version approved Wednesday made no reference to prayers or benedictions, and could be applied to any type of assembly at any type of school.

Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, and other opponents called Siplin's proposal "inappropriate."

"It is fine -- it is really fine -- for every child to pray in their own way," Margolis said. "But they should keep it to themselves in a public school."

The House version of the bill has not yet been placed on any committee agendas. 

Siplin said he was confident the bill would start moving soon. “I talked to top House brass and they’re talking about getting it cooking this week,” he said. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 3:56pm]


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