WJTV News Channel 12 - MS House Sends School Prayer Bill to Governor

MS House Sends School Prayer Bill to Governor

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In a decision with a margin of more than 100 votes the Mississippi House of Representatives sends a "Prayer in School" bill to the Governor's desk.

The bill's sponsors say the goal of the legislation is to promote open prayer in classrooms and other school events.

But critics of the bill say most of what is provided for in the bill is already the law of the land - covered in the First Amendment.

What is new is the possibility of guided prayer during morning announcements or sports events.

The reaction from students attending the State Semi-Final Class 6A Men's Basketball game was mostly positive.

"It will get more students involved with prayer and make them feel more comfortable doing it with their peers," Shawanda Brooks, a senior at Germantown High School, said.

"The school would be more safe if we had prayer," Jaida Washington, a sophomore at Madison Central High School, said.

"It should be allowed but you should have a choice if you participate in it or not," Callie Jenkins, a junior at Madison Central High School, said.

Jenkins' friend, Sarah Murphey, had more questions.

"Okay, well what would you do if you didn't want to participate in it? Leave class?" Murphey, also a junior, said.

That is just one of the questions asked by Mississippi's American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Their legal director, Bear Atwood, says student's religious speech is already covered in the bill of rights.

But the First Amendment also forbids government from establishing religion, Atwood said.

That means there could be problems with the process of school administrators selecting which students lead prayer in announcements or before a basketball game.

"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," Atwood said.

But students, who already have access to school-centered faith organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, are just excited lawmakers are talking about prayer.

"I think it's a very good thing and I want it. I don't know about anybody else but I do." Jaida Washington said.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill.
Members of the ACLU said they will be monitoring the program - adding, they will also be concerned if any students' religious freedoms are suppressed.

The ACLU of Mississippi says they will bring the state to court if what they find is unconstitutional.



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