By Susan Clary
Florida lawmakers just sent Gov. Rick Scott a bill that would allow school prayer at public school dances, assemblies, football games, even classrooms.
Beyond arguments about the law’s constitutionality and impact on people of minority faiths, lies a simple question: More than words, why aren’t the conservative Christians hell bent on passing this law equally concerned about deeds?
How, on one hand, can legislators push for “inspirational messages” in classrooms while they work to destroy access to affordable healthcare, a woman’s right to choose and the rights of service workers to earn a decent wage?
Instead of worrying about public prayer, they should let the Bible be their guide, particularly Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25, which lists the 14 works of physical and spiritual mercy. Let’s go over how some might translate into good law.
First, they could budget money to improve programs that feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. They could pass laws that ensure better oversight of the sick and elderly in nursing homes, and offer better protections for those serving time in prison, ending horrendous abuses.
They could increase teacher pay to better elevate the uneducated. More money to help the mentally ill and homeless could help comfort the sorrowful. And more bipartisan legislation would help forgive past injuries and bear wrongs patiently.
Stricter laws on campaign finance reform, lobbying, gifts to legislators and conflicts of interest would go a long way to admonish sinners who participate in backroom deals and unfair practices in the name of money and power.
Instead, more than 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed mandatory school prayer, our elected leaders are trying to legislate religion.
The bill’s sponsor says it’s not intended to endorse any religious belief, though a provision that would have required prayers to be non-sectarian was removed.
When asked if he planned to sign the legislation, Gov. Rick Scott said: “As you know, I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe individuals should have a right to say a prayer.”
Rather than push a bill certain to alienate people of minority faiths and violate our Constitution, legislators would do better to shepherd bills that promote the public good. Now that would be an inspirational message for schoolchildren of all faiths.