Florida Legislators Want to Pass Bill to Promote School Prayer

Florida legislators — led by Florida Senator Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) and Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-Keystone Heights) — want to make praying at public school events completely legal.

Gary Siplin

That’s what House Bill 317 and Senate Bill 98 are all about:

Any district school board may adopt a resolution allowing the use of an inspirational message, including, but not limited to, prayers of invocation or benediction, at secondary school commencement exercises or any other noncompulsory student assembly.

But don’t freak out, church/state separation advocates! The legislators aren’t trying to advance religion! They say so in the bill:

The purpose of this act is to provide for the solemnization and memorialization of secondary school events and ceremonies, and this act is not intended to advance or endorse any religion or religious belief.

See? If they say that, it must be true.

Unless, of course, the majority of people are Christians.

And the representatives of the student governments that have to approve the prayers are overwhelmingly Christian.

And the student volunteers who deliver the invocations are Christian.

This law is being considered only because Christians make up the majority of the population. The second a Muslim student praises Allah, you know all hell is going to break loose.

Emily Krueger of Americans United calls this bill “regrettable,” “unnecessary,” and “unconstitutional.”

SB 98 is completely unnecessary — Florida students already have many opportunities to pray in school. The U.S. and Florida Constitutions already guarantee students the right to engage in voluntary, student-initiated religious expression during non-instructional time. In addition, Florida law allows school districts to provide up to two minutes each day for students to silently pray. The bill is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem.

SB 98 would allow those of the majority faith to promote their religious beliefs and practices at public school events. Indeed, the Senate Education Committee even eliminated language from the bill that had required the prayers to be “non-sectarian and nonproselytizing.” This would make students who believe in minority faiths and who are non-believers feel like “outsiders” in and not like “full members” of their own public schools. This is one of the very harms the First Amendment exists to prevent.

So why is Siplin insistent on passing these bills?

Said sponsor Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando: “All I’m trying to do is allow those School Boards and those students who want to partake in this type of activity [the opportunity] to do that.”

They already have that option. This bill is just a way for Siplin and his Christian counterparts to advance their faith through political means. It needs to be stopped.

If you live in Florida, please contact your Representative or Senator and tell them to vote against these bills.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/JoeCascio Joe Cascio

    How many times do these idiots have to be slapped down before they get it? NO, you can’t harness the government to advance your religion, which, by the way, continues to lose ground to reason when it’s forced to compete on its merits.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    How do these people get into positions were they can propose idiocy like this?  Don’t they know their own constitution? How much time, effort and money do they want to waste on this type of lunacy? They will lose. They must know that, so why do they keep on with this stupidity?

    • downtowndave3

      If you read the end of the Book, you would see that those who reject Christ are the ones who ultimately lose.  Those who fight to honor God and teach others to honor God are the ones who ultimately win.  http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

      • Glasofruix

        “Proving things with bible verses since 2000AD. Religion, join us or go to HELL!”

        Srsly, stop with the bullshit, go read a real book.

      • http://www.facebook.com/DocMonkey Mick Wright

        Well, if you read the end of an Agatha Christie, you find out that the detective was right. Doesn’t mean Poirot’s real. Get a life.

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

        from your website:

        PROOF OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

        (Have you been in those mind twisting, frustrating debates and arguments with professed “atheists” trying to prove to them that God exists? God set me free from that. It’s not your responsibility to prove the existence of God. It’s God’s responsibility. And He’s already done it. He has proven His existence through Creation, Conscience, and Christ, the Word of God.

        I’m fine with whatever rationalization you want to give yourself for why you can believe in something without evidence. But if you want those beliefs in politics, and more importantly, public education, then it needs to be judged on the same merits. If it can’t face the scrutiny of critical observation everything else faces, then it doesn’t belong. If it’s, as you say, God’s responsibility to prove his own existence, then you shouldn’t feel responsible for inserting him and his story into school either. Just let your god do it in his own “mysterious way”.

      • Anonymous

        Hate to break it to you, but god not existing sucks all the relevance from those passages.

    • JSug

      Step 1: Propose/Pass new law to allow religious majority to stomp all over the civil rights of minority groups.

      Step 2: Law is challenged by “evil atheists” and ruled unconstitutional.

      Step 3: Run for re-election as the guy who stood up to the anti-religious liberals and fought the good fight.

      Answer: they’ll keep wasting time, effort, and money on this lunacy for as long as it continues to get them re-elected.

      • TheBlackCat

        Step 4: Profit (at everyone elses’ expense)

  • Anonymous

    They can pass a law, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    In my opinion this guy is on a huge power trip. Here is a quote from Wikipedia

    “In 2006, he was convicted of third-degree felony grand theft of $5,000
    or more, as well as a misdemeanor statutory violation, for using the
    services of employees for his candidacy. He is the first convicted felon to serve in the Florida Legislature, and sponsored legislation that would restore voting rights to himself and other convicted felons.”

    And! He has a Doctorate in Poly Sci. I really think they make terrible politicians. He needs to watched carefully and put into check as soon as he gets out of line.

    • http://twitter.com/latinone_usa The LatiNone

      Siplin is not a political scientist, he has a “juris doctorate” which is fancy speak for “lawyer.” 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rhoades/100000175617377 Scott Rhoades

    It certainly doesn’t pass the Lemon test. Even if it passes in Florida the federal court will slap it down. How many times do these people need to waste taxpayer money in defending against the inevitable lawsuits before they realize it’s futile? If their attorney general doesn’t advise them against this action he is an idiot. It doesn’t take much searching to find out that this kind of blatant religion in school is NEVER allowed to stand.

  • Erik Cameron

    Wait, I thought if you passed a law that violated the constitution it didn’t work. Isn’t that why they have a constitution?

    • TheBlackCat

      It needs to be struck down by a court first.  Until then it is in effect.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    this act is not intended to advance or endorse any religion or religious belief.

    Thankfully I don’t think that there is a judge in the United States dumb enough to fall for something like this.

  • Silver_fox-trot

    Why do I feel the moment that some intelligent person makes it to the stand and gives thanks to Allah, Zeus and Jupiter, these same people will be rushing in to change back the law?

  • T-Rex

    As a citizen of Florida I’ve seen these “Bills” come up time and time again. I estimate I have to contact my representatives 3 to 4 times a year to notify them of the unconstitutionality of these types of  “Bills”. It’s the “good ol boys” and rednecks living inland and north of Lake Okeechobee in rural areas that fuck it up for everyone else. If you travel inland more than 15 miles from the coast, you may as well live in Mississipi or Alabalma. They just love to praise Jeebus and would force everyone else to praise him lest they “burn in hell”. I live along the coast in Palm Beach county where thankfully, the population is very diverse and the Jesus freaks are few and far between. We have a large concentration of Jews in our area as well, so while Christians are still the majority in this area they are not that big of a majority. This is true of most of the coastal areas in south Florida. Just another day in paradise. 

    • chunx of earth

      I’m in wpb as well, and you seem to have a grasp of reality. It just seems to be a painful revolving door of ignorance, and eventually, the godophiles hope to beat us down to where we accept the unacceptable.

  • Anonymous

    At this point I seriously think we should be publicly protesting and trying our best to teach science in churches.

    Obviously that would never pass but it might make them think.

  • Anonymous

    I think that it’s a great idea to promote prayer in school.  The Church of Satan have been looking forward to the opportunity for years. 

    /sarcasm

    Do they really think that someone won’t praise Allah, Satan, the FSM and every single deity that could possible upset the Christian bigots if this gets in and then claim protection under the law?  I would. Gleefully.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tychabrahe Lauren Eve Pomerantz

    Representative Siplin’s Facebook page is at 
    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001956549614.  Every single post aims with either “Praise God,” or “Praise the Lord.”

    I suggest you go to his page and send him a message.  I suggest you start with thanking him for the option to worship Holy Mother Diana or other appropriate deity of your choice.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Siplin knows full well that his farce of a bill will either fail in legislation or will be struck down in Federal court. It’s not about prayer, its about pandering.  He’s a Democrat in a red state, and the Republican party is kissing every evangelical ass they can find. He knows that if he doesn’t polish up his religious credentials, people will just assume he’s “jus’ ‘nuther one o’ them godless Demon-crats!” 

    He’s telling the truth when his bill says

    this act is not intended to advance or endorse any religion or religious belief.

    That is true. It won’t advance religion because it’s doomed. It is intended to advance his political career.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    “I do solemnly affirm (or swear) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. (So help me God.)”

    Parens around the optional parts, naturally. This man stated this oath when he was elected. He is not bearing “true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution because he is violating the First Amendment. He is guilty of breaking his oath to his office and to his people. I think that’s an impeachable offense.

  • Tylertc13

    I emailed my local Senator, one Mike Fasano, about it. I typed out a very lengthy email regarding my opposition about it. I added a part about how I received a surprising amount of hatred, prejudice, intolerance, and contempt from my family and peers when I came out as an atheist.

    About 30 minutes later I got a generic “Thank you for your opinion on SB 98. Yadda yadda yadda” type email. But the end of it caught me by surprise.

    It ended with: “God Bless, Senator Fasano.”

    *facepalm*

    • Rich Wilson

      your first mistake was ‘lengthy’ (and not the spelling, too long and they won’t read any of it).  They will also never directly address any questions you have.  I prefer to make a statement, like “I see you support BBQ as the preferred method for preparing babies for consumption” and let them deny it.

      Not that I’ve had much success either, but it’s a new tact.

  • Anonymous

    come this fall it’s election time, and they want the support 0f those “values voters.” 

    Imagine if I ran and people learned I was opposed to that bill? I would lose so fast it wouldn’t be funny

  • http://gotmyfreelunch.blogspot.com/ free tv

    People seem to forget the first Amendment often


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