Written by Don Byrd
The Missouri Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a “student religious liberty” bill yesterday, sending the measure to Governor Jay Nixon with seemingly veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and the House. House Bill 1303 purports to ensure the rights of students to religious expression in homework and artwork and to pray or organize religious groups to the extent that secular groups are allowed.
The First Amendment already protects the rights of students to engage in such activities and assures freedom from nondiscrimination.
The bill does even more than that. The Springfield News-Leader reports:
The bill says that the policy must treat any school event at which a student is to speak publicly, including graduation ceremonies, as a “limited public forum.”
That means the school could not discriminate against students’ expression of a religious viewpoint if they are addressing the topic at hand.
The school would also have to state, either orally or in writing, that the student’s speech is not endorsed by the district.
Even if school districts can put such a policy in action without violating the separation of church and state, turning an event like a graduation over to students to speak their mind on any topic of their choice, including religion, may fall under the be-careful-what-you-wish-for category.
You can read the bill here.