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Student-Led School Prayers Are Now Legal, But Fear of Litigation Could Trump God

| July 1, 2012

public piety school prayer law florida legislature

Legal, even when the audience is captive. (Keoni Cabral)

A controversial law that would allow student prayer at mandatory school events could have limited impact even after it goes into effect Sunday, both supporters and opponents of the “inspirational message” bill say.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March, paves the way for local school districts to approve policies allowing students to decide whether to have another student deliver an inspirational message at school events. But districts aren’t likely to approve any of the proposals because of the threat of costly litigation.

“On our advice, they are going nowhere with it,” said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.

Blanton said only one school district in the state – Clay County – has even considered implementing one of the policies, and decided not to. He said the measure was “a political bill” aimed more at the November elections than the actual policy.

Even one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, said he didn’t expect school boards to leap into action right away. But Van Zant said he has heard from districts that are interested in the idea and might look into it early next year — after the November vote.

“I don’t think they’re going to do much of anything simply because there’s so much electioneering going on,” Van Zant said.

Looming over the entire bill is the threat of legal action against any district that tries to implement it. When Scott signed the bill, the ACLU of Florida, the Anti-Defamation League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State each separately issued warnings to local school districts that going ahead with a policy could subject them to legal challenges.

The Santa Rosa County School District recently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a costly series of lawsuits over the role of religion in public schools, sparked in part by prayers at school events.

Van Zant said districts shouldn’t be deterred.

“I told them the ACLU is going to threaten to sue them,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”

But in a statement issued Friday, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said he didn’t expect many districts to follow Van Zant’s advice.

“Fortunately, Florida educators are likely to be smarter than legislators,” Simon said. “I expect few if any school districts to be enticed by the Legislature’s invitation to adopt an unconstitutional policy and end up in inevitable litigation — and spend scarce tax dollars on lawyers in the courtroom rather than children in the classroom.”

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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23 Responses for “Student-Led School Prayers Are Now Legal, But Fear of Litigation Could Trump God”

  1. question says:

    Go ahead Florida…Make My Day.
    ACLU of Florida, the Anti-Defamation League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

    [Unless they do this already, which I rather doubt, you think time might be better spent introducing & informing our little Florida dumplings of the other major religions in the United States & the world & awareness of their history, philosophies & purposes?]


  2. roco says:

    If the prayer was a muslem prayer it would be mandatory.

  3. gatorfan1 says:

    dear headline writer: NOTHING TRUMPS GOD!

  4. Yellowstone says:

    Is this for Christians only?

    How about Star of David? Crucifix? Buhda? Prayer Rugs? and Atheists? All in the same room?

    This is going to be an interesting story to watch unfold, then fold up again, and put back in the closet.

  5. NortonSmitty says:

    You know who else prays at school? Croatians!

    • Magnolia says:

      I used to pray like the dickens, silently, as they were passing out the tests. Sure glad nobody caught me.

      I also prayed another time, when I had my tonsils out. My dad used to tuck me in at night with the old prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Anybody remember that one?

      I prayed again when I got married, again when my husband went to Vietnam, and again when my first baby was born, that she would be healthy.

      I prayed again when my parents died and when my kids applied to college. I prayed on the nights they were out too late that they would come home alive.

      Holy Mackerel, I’m glad nobody caught me!

  6. Sad Times says:

    Well, well, well….. and the stupidities continue!!

  7. Atheist Mom says:

    Flagler Schools should be afraid of litigation on this issue because if they were to implement this law in my daughter’s elementary school I would be the one filing it.

    • Magnolia says:

      Pretty sad…..our children are testing badly and not doing well, we dumb down the educational standards to the lowest common denominator and this is what we are focusing on?

      Shame on us all.

  8. Deep South says:

    Growing up in Florida, attending public schools, and playing sports it was common for a prayer to be said before every game. Usually one of the local Pastors would come to the locker room and lead us in prayer. Also their were many times that the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance was said during announcements. Times certainly have changed.

    • Anonymous says:

      The last place I’d want a pastor was in a locker room.

      • Magnolia says:

        I think we were talking about STUDENT led prayers.

        • jespo says:

          Organized religion wants to insinuate itself into every facet of life…sudents are just the pawns to do that, they don’t know enough about life yet. And yes, there will be some jackoff faculty member ‘amen’-ing them along…its like Tourette’s syndrome, they can’t help themselves.

  9. Anonymous II says:

    Religious prayers in school…sigh. We really did fail our students. Nevertheless, the government failed our students. I’m going to agree with Yellowstone. What if the student is from a different religion? In fact religion shouldn’t even be put an emphasis in school. Prayers. Smh. Just some silly political tool for Politicians to gain an upper hand. What we need as a country is the repealing of the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ and a better regulation of school budgets. We, as a whole nation, should be passing laws about encouraging science, math, and humanity in schools rather than about religion. I don’t know about you, but whatever you believe in stays at home or your religious institution. What makes us so different from religious indoctrination of extremist in the middle east? They utilize religion in every way. America, that’s going to be if we keep this up. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE NOW!

    • Magnolia says:

      Anonymous II, many of these students don’t practice an organized religion. They just want to offer a simple prayer, which should apply to anyone of any religion.

      Where you get indoctrination from this, I’ll never know. You don’t seem to mind the schools teaching your child every style of perversion, but if a student want to offer a prayer, you go ballistic.

      There is a difference between extremism and tolerance. If you don’t agree with it, ignore it. If it becomes extremism, then you have every right to complain.

      • NortonSmitty says:

        Good idea. I’ll even let them use my favorite prayer:” God, please save me from your followers, Amen.”

      • jespo says:

        Why should my child have to ‘ignore it’??? You are religious and therefore assume everyone would have no problem with you praying to your god in public because in your mind your god is really their god too but they don’t know it so you feel magnanimus and pray for their salvation from themselves by your god amen amen amen. What of the non religious students, or the atheists? What becomes of them?

        What would you do when I teach my children to pray to Baal, Mithra, Diana, Krishna, Osiris, etc etc etc? What would you tell your children about those prayers? What would your child say to those children?

  10. jespo says:

    Deaths in the Bible. God – 2,476,636 not including the victims of Noah`s flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc because no specific numbers were given (probably close to 20-25 million). Satan – 10…

    And that ends the ‘god is great but don’t piss him off’ moment of the evening folks….tootaloo…… off to sacrifice a lamb on my kitchen table…

  11. NortonSmitty says:

    Here’s a tasty little prayer for all you True Beeleavers out there:

    And remember, there is no Devil, that’s just God when he’s drunk.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wow why are atheists so upset that a kid in school might just say a “inspirational message”.

    • jespo says:

      It’s called prayer, don’t call it a message; that’s not what it is and this is why we don’t want prayer in school because smug religious people try to spin their beliefs so they’re appealing and dumbed down to non believers or children; then like a poison you enter their minds and fill it with the most outrageous nonsense and bullshit that lasts a lifetime. Snake. It’s because your ‘inspirational’ messages will be organized, orchestrated, and will take time from learning what needs to be taught by those trained to teach. You’re talking about allowing religious messages to be allowed in publicly funded schools in America, and we have laws against religion blending itself like a snake into public schools.

      If you truly wish to have your child spend school time listening to insprational messages you should be the kind of parent that sacrifices everything in their own lives to send their child to a private religious school. If you can’t afford that, then be more insprational at home. If your child needs inspring every day then dare I suggest there’s something wrong with that child that they can’t inspire themselves or your inspiring messages suck at inspiring. Either way, I don’t give a shit, just keep your prayers to yourself please.

  13. Curmudgeon says:

    I hope some one will ask Rep. Van Zant what his reaction will be the first time a student-led inspirational message concludes with, “…we ask this in the name of Allah, the just and merciful.”

    The representative’s response should be of great interest.

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