The Alabama House Education Policy Committee voted to approve a bill that would require public school teachers to open class with a prayer each morning.
The legislation would require teachers in Alabama public school classrooms to recite a prayer at the beginning of every school day, for up to fifteen minutes. Teachers would be required to perform a “verbatim reading of a congressional opening prayer.” That is, teachers would be required to read out loud to their students one of the opening prayers recited by chaplains or their guests before sessions of the U.S. Congress.
The legislation was approved by a voice vote, even though the majority of the committee members voted against it. Raw Story reports three lawmakers voted against the bill, three other lawmakers did not vote, and only two lawmakers voted in favor of the bill.
However, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, chairwoman of the committee, said she heard more votes in favor of the bill. “It’s what I heard as chairman,” she said.
According to House Clerk Jeff Woodard, the chairperson of each committee may decide to call the voice vote at their discretion. If no one disputes the outcome, then the voice vote rules.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has called the initiative “egregious,” noting that using Congressional prayers does not, in fact, make the bill constitutional:
“A teacher-led prayer in a public school is undoubtedly different than a prayer in a legislative meeting. First, congressional prayers are directed only at the legislators themselves, who are adults, rather than young and impressionable students.”
“Second, the opening prayers of a legislative session typically has an atmosphere where adults are free to enter and leave without notice. Students in a classroom, on the other hand, are a captive audience and legally mandated to attend school.”
As Charles C. Haynes, Director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, points out:
…the push for “school prayer” isn’t really about restoring the power to pray; it’s about restoring the power of the majority to impose their prayers on the children of the minority in public schools
Contrary to culture-war propaganda, the Supreme Court has never banned prayer from public schools. What the court has done is uphold religious freedom by banning the government from imposing prayer on schoolchildren and simultaneously guarding the right of students to express their faith, when appropriate, during the school day.
The attempt to mandate school prayer is ultimately an exercise in political futility. Such efforts are clearly unconstitutional, and only serve to promote an unflattering portrait of Christian conservatives as being ignorant of the U.S. Constitution, and desperate to indoctrinate and corrupt innocent minds with their religious superstitions.
For more on this story see: Alabama GOP introduces legislation requiring prayer in public schools.