Louisiana House, Fearful of Lawsuits, Rewrites Permission-Slip Prayer Bill

Last month, the Louisiana Senate unanimously passed a bill allowing teachers and coaches to pray with students while on the job.

That, of course, is illegal. It’s coercive. It sends the message that you need to agree with the staffers’ religious beliefs to stay on their good side.

The sponsor of that bill, State Sen. Ryan Gatti, attempted to create a workaround to the claims of coercion. His bill said that the prayers would only be allowed if every parent or legal guardian of the students in attendance “submitted a signed request that the employee may participate in the gathering or pray with his child.”

See? The adults could only pray with kids if they had permission slips from everyone!

Anyone who thinks about that for a few seconds would know that the problem is still present. Students would just be coerced to get that permission slip signed. If they didn’t, they’d be accused of ruining prayers for everyone.

Here’s the good news: When SB 512 went to the Louisiana State House, there were politicians who understood those concerns. Even Republicans!

Shreveport Rep. Alan Seabaugh says the old bill would have targeted religious minorities.

“Let’s say you have 15 kids on a soccer team. 14 kids want the coach to lead them in prayer, one kid who’s an atheist, a muslim, or somebody who doesn’t. He is going to bullied, he’s going to be coerced into signing the consent form”.

The Shreveport Republican says the old version of the bill was obviously unconstitutional, and would have led to successful challenges by organizations like the ACLU.

“When they win your school district then has to pay their legal fees and costs, which is hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there is no doubt that they will win”.

He’s absolutely right about that. State Rep. Rick Edmonds, a Republican and Baptist minister, changed the entire bill to say that the teachers and coaches could only bow their heads “in deference and respect” during a student-led, student-initiated prayer. No joining them in prayer. No leading the prayer. Edmonds’ amendment also eliminated the idiotic part about permission slips.

Essentially, his changes gutted the original bill. Which is exactly what needed to happen.

The amendment was adopted in the House on a 68-22 vote, the revised bill was passed unanimously, and it’s now back in the Senate’s hands.

***Update***: I spoke too soon. The State Senate rejected the amended bill 31-1. It will now go to a conference committee. So who knows what the hell is going on anymore.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)

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