Palm Coast’s Merrill Shapiro, a member of the national board of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, presented legal arguments at a talk Thursday against the Flagler County School Board’s potential return to starting meetings with invocations.
church and state
A divided Flagler County School Board has yet to decide whether and how to conduct invocations at the start of its meetings following Chairman Janet McDonald’s out-of-order introduction of a pastor and her invocation at the August meeting.
School Board Chair Janet McDonald’s decision to start Tuesday’s meeting with a prayer by a pastor had not been approved by the board nor placed on the agenda, a violation of board procedures and a break with a nearly 50-year precedent.
“Brevard County has selected invocation speakers in a way that favors certain monotheistic religions and categorically excludes from consideration other religions solely based on their belief systems,” a federal appeals court ruled.
The Flagler County school district is following state law in adopting a new but vague policy protecting religious expression, though some school board members say it’s an unnecessary imposition.
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero urged a Constitution Revision Commission panel to repeal a constitutional ban on state support for religious groups.
A ban on state support for religious groups would be removed from the Florida Constitution under a proposal approved Wednesday by a Constitution Revision Commission panel.
A separate rule allowing employers that are not religious organization to deny contraceptive coverage to employees is geared toward anti-abortion groups, but its legal status is doubtful.
The Florida Legislature is about to approve a bill that would give religion preferential treatment in public schools, destroying a balance between secular rights and already inviolate personal expression.
The proposal would allow religious speakers and messaging at school-sponsored events, and would allow students to engage in organized prayer groups during the school day and with the participation–though not the sponsorship–of school personnel.