A bill that is meant to allow student-led prayers in school, a proposed law that could potentially lead to costly legal battles, is heading to Governor Rick Scott's desk after being passed by the Florida legislature today.
Though, the bill itself doesn't mention the word "prayer," and instead allows for "inspiration messages." It in essence gives kids the power to lead their classmates in messages about whatever it is they please. Basically, the thing is a giant misguided mess, but that didn't stop the legislature from passing it.
The bill passed 88-27 in the House today, with ten socially conservative Democrats joining Republicans. The bill was actually originally introduced in the senate by Democratic Sen. Gary Siplin. Though, many of Siplin's Democratic colleagues have reservations about the bill.
The bill allows individual school districts to adopt the suggested policy, potentially setting up heated debates on the school board level. The law would allow any student responsible for organizing a portion of any school event, including mandatory assembles, to deliver an "inspiration message." School officials can not "monitor or otherwise review the content of a student volunteer's inspirational message."
The bill is mum on how these student volunteers are to be chosen, and how many different messages can be delivered.
Rep. Marty Kier, a Democrat from Davie, worried that this would allow students to deliver potentially hateful message, like, according to the Orlando Sentinel
, "the Holocaust didn't occur or argue[ing] for racial intolerance."
"What really concerns me is that the bill sponsor basically said that a student can even preach something that could endanger the health and safety of our students," he said. "They could advocate for drug abuse, the could advocate for gang violence and that scares me."
Though, supporters say that the bill is meant to encourage prayer, and are apparently not worried it could be used for anything else.
"Before we moved inspirational messages, the number one problem was talking out of turn," said Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights. "Now, it's drug abuse."
Yeah, because clearly the fact that the Supreme Court upheld the separation of church and state 50 years ago and outlawed mandatory prayer in school is directly responsible for the rise in drug abuse among kids. Do you have anything resembling facts to back that up, Van Zant?
Opponents are also worried about the potential for costly lawsuits, and the House failed to pass amendment whether the state or individual school districts would be responsible for legal costs.
Students, meanwhile, are already allowed to pray on their own, and many groups like the Fellowship for Christian Athletes partake in prayer during after school activities.
In the meantime, many expect Governor Rick Scott to sign the bill into law.