In Mississippi a controversial bill that would sanction prayer at public school events is on the desk of Republican Governor Phil Bryant. Despite the obvious constitutional concerns, Bryant is expected to sign the bill into law that would restore school prayer by allowing students to lead sectarian prayers before captive public school audiences.
Led by socially conservative Republicans, the Mississippi House voted 108-6 for final passage of the bill on Wednesday, March 6. The bill, Senate Bill 2633, is meant to guarantee religious freedom in Mississippi public schools, however, critics see it as a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the separation of church and state embedded in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The bill would allow certain students, to be chosen by school administrators, to pray at football games, graduations and even during morning announcements. Critics point to the obvious problems with a process that allows school administrators to select which particular student will lead the prayer before captive public school children during morning announcements or before a basketball game or other sporting event.
Bear Atwood, interim director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, points out that this bill would force students to listen to someone else's religious expression. Atwood says that's the same problem that led judges to strike down a previous Mississippi law allowing student-led prayer. According to Atwood:
"You're still using school resources and you're still holding other students as a captive audience - other students whose parents might be wishing them to learn religion in a different, a different religion, a different forum."
What do you think about Mississippi’s attempt to reinstate school prayer? Should Mississippi Governor Bryant sign the controversial legislation into law? Leave a comment - express yourself.
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