Written by Don Byrd
Yesterday, the Kentucky House passed with an 81-8 vote a bill that purports to protect religious expression in public schools. Senate Bill 17 is headed to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin for his signature. The bill specifies that students may pray during school hours and include religious expression in homework assignments. Of course, the Constitution already protects a student’s religious liberty rights. Representative Stan Lee (R-Lexington) remarked, “All this legislation does is put into law and recognize those constitutional facts.”
Earlier this week, the Florida Senate Committee on Education passed a similar bill, sending Senate BIll 436 on to the full Senate for consideration, The Sunshine State News described the measure this way:
Senate Bill 436 authorizes students to express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments, free from discrimination. Students may also wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol to the same extent secular types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols are permitted in public school dress codes. Further, students may pray, or engage in and organize religious activities before, during, and after the school day, to the same extent student engagement in secular activity or expression, and the organization of secular activities and groups are permitted.
Meanwhile, in Indiana this week, a judge has ruled unconstitutional a public school’s practice of depicting the birth of Christ in its Christmas musical. The school has altered the performance to lessen the impact of the religious reference, an adjustment Judge DeGuilio found acceptable.
The South Bend Tribune reports:
Because Concord officials had already made changes to the show, DeGuilio’s ruling Monday simply served as a notice that any return to the live nativity performance could entitle opponents to legal judgment.
However, he also ruled that the adjusted performance did not violate the constitutional protection against the establishment of state religion, writing that the curtailed depiction of the nativity was a fair nod to tradition and cultural celebrations of Christmas.