Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a new law that will allow students to deliver “inspirational messages” or prayers at school events and functions. However, most Central Florida school leaders say they have no interest in implementing this new law.
This new prayer law, which takes effect on July 1, could possibly bring unwanted controversy between parents and the school board. Most school board presidents fear costly legal suits could stem from this law.
Sen. Gary Siplin, who sponsored the proposal, said it was “a wonderful day in the State of Florida for our youth.” He says this new bill will most likely make history. After a 50-year absence, all schools in the state of Florida will now allow students to say inspirational messages, including prayers.
Siplin also said that, “We teach our kids how to read, write and do arithmetic and we want to make sure that we have a complete student when they graduate. Of course, morality and spirituality is a part of that process.”
Bill Sublette, chair of the Orange County School Board, doesn’t believe the law will stand up to constitutional scrutiny and doesn’t want to risk any unnecessary legal challenges. “I just think that ultimately students are going to get up and lead sectarian prayer,” said Sublette.
Many groups are very vocal and against this bill. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Anti-Defamation League argue that this bill violates constitutional protections that separate the church and state. ACLU spokesman said the best thing that school districts could do is say “no thank you.”
School leaders in Lake, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties worry this new law could spark pricey legal battles, and are not interested in making this mandatory.
Currently, the Florida state law allows schools to set aside two minutes during the school day for silent prayer and meditation. Students are also allowed to have organized prayer events before or after school.
Tina Calderon, Seminole County School Board chair, said,” If it’s not broken, why fix it?”
But Siplin continues to argue that since it’s not a mandate, it’s not a requirement. He also said that because adults aren’t allowed to participate in these messages, parents shouldn’t be too worried. Any potential lawsuits are frivolous and any district that’s sued could expect their legal fees back, Siplin explained.
Only time will tell how parents and students will react to this brand new prayer law.