Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Look who wants the governor to veto school prayer bill

The better part of his life has been devoted to religion.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Harold Brockus was the Presbyterian pastor at the Good Samaritan Church in Pinellas Park. Sermons, missions, prayers. Everything you would expect from a place of worship and a man of God.

So when a school prayer bill landed on Gov. Rick Scott's desk this month, Rev. Brockus understandably had reason to care. Enough reason to put his name on a letter imploring the governor to do the right thing with this proposed law.

Don't sign it.

For the love of prayer, don't sign it.

Rev. Brockus jointly authored a letter with a Baptist minister and a rabbi to oppose this bill (SB 98) that would allow students to offer "inspirational messages'' at public school functions.

And, yes, you are reading that correctly.

Members of the Senate and the House — these would be your guardians of the government — think it's a fine idea to mix in a little church with state business.

Meanwhile, these three men of faith — the experts in the application of prayer — have been forced to argue against the blurring of religious and government lines.

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

Why would religious leaders fight a law promoting prayer? Mostly because they're worried the law would have the opposite impact of its supposed intention.

If, for instance, a group of students wanted to promote Catholicism, how would that play among Baptists? Or how would Jewish students feel about an "inspirational message'' in the form of a Muslim prayer?

"It's not an issue of religious freedom for students except in the sense of students being free of the religious views of others,'' Rev. Brockus said.

Even if you move beyond the endless argument of a separation of church and state, there is the simple question of why this law is necessary.

Is prayer currently banned in schools? Absolutely not. Students are free to pray privately throughout the day.

They're also free to pray in their churches or synagogues or mosques. They are free to pray in their homes. They are free to pray at malls, if you want to take it that far.

Adding a law to the books that makes public prayer permissible at school events is simply inviting trouble on campuses and in courtrooms.

For you can bet it will face legal challenges. And that means school districts will be wasting money on lawyers instead of education.

I'm not sure Gov. Scott wants to explain how that is fiscally responsible.

"This bill is a solution in search of a problem,'' the ministers and rabbi wrote in their letter to Gov. Scott. "Forcing prayer upon public-school students not only violates the rights of those students, it also demeans the spiritual significance of religious belief.''

In the end, this isn't really a bill about prayer.

It is a way for legislators to pander to voters who may not fully understand the legal, financial and constitutional ramifications of this proposed law.

Prayer is not a government issue. And it shouldn't be a political ploy.

John Romano can be reached at

Look who wants the governor to veto school prayer bill 03/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 10:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Virtual line tech leads to long waits at Universal's Volcano Bay

    ORLANDO — Customers are keeping Universal Orlando's new Volcano Bay waterpark filled to capacity most days, but not all are pleased with the experience.

  2. Races are reversed in a police killing, and again a family asks: Why?


    MINNEAPOLIS — There was something bad going on in the alleyway behind the house, she told her fiancé on the phone, someone who sounded as if she was in distress, maybe a rape. It was past 11 p.m., and most people on Washburn Avenue were furled in their beds.

    joint cutline 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch
  3. The battle for Venezuela, through a lens and gas mask


    CARACAS, Venezuela — Motley throngs of masked anti-government protesters hurl rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails. Police and soldiers retaliate with tear gas, water cannon blasts, rubber bullets and buckshot.

    An uprising is brewing in Venezuela.

    Antigovernment protesters use a giant slingshot to launch glass jars ?   some filled with paint, others with feces ?   at police on the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2017. Nearly every day for more than three months, a ragtag group of protesters calling themselves El Resistencia have taken to the streets to vent fury at President Nicol??s Maduro’s government. (Meridith Kohut/The New York Times) XNYT104
  4. Romano: Sinkholes take Florida's quirks to a whole 'nother level

    Public Safety

    So all of this — the beaches, palm trees and fresh grouper sandwiches — comes with a few extenuating costs. To live in Florida is to accept a lifestyle of hazards, both peculiar and deadly. Lightning strikes and hurricanes, for example. Alligators and sharks, too. Floods, drug traffickers, spring break and …

    Two days after a sinkhole opened in front of her Spring Hill home in 2014, Linda Fisher packs up to leave for good.
  5. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 18: Despite feeling ill, this pilgrim passes the midpoint in her 500-mile journey on foot


    Day 18: Lédigos to El Burgo Ranero: 34.3 km, 12.25 hours (Total for Days 1-18 = 428 km (266 miles)

    Today was a struggle.