Written by Don Byrd
Late last week, the Kentucky State Senate passed SB 17, a bill advocates claim will bolster the religious freedom rights of students and teachers in public schools. Among other things, the measure permits students to “engage in religious activities in a public school” and “express religious viewpoints in… assignments.” The bill also protects the right of student religious groups to use school facilities and other school resources to the same extent that nonreligious groups have access.
The bill appears to have arisen in response to a school play controversy. In December, 2015, to avoid improperly promoting religion, Kentucky’s Johnson County schools required the removal of religious references during a public school production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” State Senators also tried to address the issue last year with similar legislation.
While proponents believe the bill guarantees religious expression is protectied, critics argue SB 17 is not necessary. Student religious expression is, after all, robustly protected by the First Amendment. The law, they say, could lead to confusion and an increase in costly legal disputes.
You can read the bill, which now goes to the State House for consideration, here.