Groups urge Florida school districts to ignore prayer law

Published Mar. 28, 2012

Florida's newly adopted law permitting school prayer actually doesn't give students the automatic right to stand up and inspire their classes.

Rather, it allows school boards to create policies allowing students to deliver "inspirational messages" at student assemblies.

The ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are urging district leaders not to go there.

"Adoption of an 'inspirational message' policy would likely subject your school district to costly and time-consuming litigation," lawyers for Americans United warned in a letter to superintendents.

"Implementing this legislation will very likely cause dissension throughout your community, dividing schoolchildren and families along religious lines," ACLU Florida executive director Howard Simon added in a separate letter.

He suggested that students already have plenty of opportunity for constitutionally protected religious expression in school without any new policies. The Anti-Defamation League cautioned superintendents that if they choose to move ahead with these policies, they might wish to consult with lawyers first.

Tampa Bay area school officials said they planned to review the new law, along with any direction they receive from the state Department of Education, before determining what if any action they would pursue.