Bahai News - House Amends Bill On School Prayer
House Amends Bill On School Prayer
Source: Palm Beach Post
Publication date: 2001-04-17
Arrival time: 2001-04-20
The House moved closer on Monday to voting on a bill that would allow school
districts statewide to have a prayer at commencement exercises and voluntary
Any prayer would have to be given by a student volunteer, and would have to
be "nonsectarian and nonproselytizing in nature" and uninfluenced by school
After lengthy debate over the bill's constitutionality, the House passed one
amendment that would prohibit districts from selecting the student volunteer
by a majority vote.
The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Wilbert Holloway, D-Miami, said the amended
bill (HB 1199) isn't intended to further any religious belief and would
allow districts to select volunteers randomly. Holloway, a Baptist, had
three co-sponsors who say they are Baptist, Episcopalian and Roman Catholic.
Arguments centered on whether the House needed to weigh in on the debate,
which has been reinvigorated by a federal court case in Duval County, and if
so, how to create a law that could survive a constitutional challenge.
Several federal cases, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June, have
found that student-led prayer at school events violates separation of church
In the case against the Duval County School Board, the court must decide
whether the policy of permitting students to vote on selecting a student to
deliver an invocation at graduation is unconstitutional for the same reason.
After the school board won early court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court
remanded the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
House lawmakers were eager to be heard during Tuesday's debate.
"What the bill is trying to do is recapture the right we lost," said Mike
Hogen, R-Jacksonville. "My 12 years in public schools started with a pledge
of allegiance and a prayer. I don't recall at that time mass murders at
Reps. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach, and Kenneth Gottlieb, D-Hollywood, pushed
an unsuccessful amendment that would have required schools to rotate the
student volunteers to ensure every faith is included.
"There's no way to ensure the Bahai get a voice; there's no procedure to make
sure the Muslims have a voice," Gottlieb said.
The House is likely to vote on the bill when it reconvenes on April 24. There
is no companion bill in the Senate.
©Copyright 2001, Palm Beach Post
Page last updated/revised 042001
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