By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville) said prayer should have never been taken out of schools and that is why she is sponsoring a bill to put it back in. House Bill 303, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, & school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression,” and would require a school district “to adopt limited public forum policy & deliver a disclaimer at school events.”
HB 303 is being co-sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala). Daniels, who is a pastor of Kimberly Daniels Ministries. Daniels said:
If we open the door for Christian clubs, for children to join Christian clubs, there would be less going (to) street gangs.
Under her bill, students could use their religion as the subject of an assigned essay, wear clothing promoting their faith and hold a prayer group during school hours. The legislation promoting religious expression would open the door to any faith.
Currently there is no statewide policy in place regarding these issues. Decisions on what is appropriate are being made locally according to the bill’s co-sponsor Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala).
HB 303 represents bi-partisanship at its best, and a strengthening of the First Amendment. Since Engel vs. Vitale ruling against school prayer in 1962, school performance, student behavior and America’s international educational standing have all been in decline. We heartily concur with Justice Potter Stewart’s courageous dissent in that case:
“With all respect, I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an “official religion” is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation.
The Court’s historical review of the quarrels over the Book of Common Prayer in England throws no light for me on the issue before us in this case. England had then and has now an established church. Equally unenlightening, I think, is the history of the early establishment and later rejection of an official church in our own States. For we deal here not with the establishment of a state church, which would, of course, be constitutionally impermissible, but with whether school children who want to begin their day by joining in prayer must be prohibited from doing so. Moreover, I think that the Court’s task, in this as in all areas of constitutional adjudication is not responsibly aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the “wall of separation,” a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution. What is relevant to the issue here is not the history of an established church in sixteenth century England or in eighteenth century America, but the history of the religious traditions of our people, reflected in countless practices of the institutions and officials of our government.”
HR 303 is a good start in the right direction. Representatives Daniels and Baxley are to be commended.