Lost amid last week’s Hobby Lobby hullabaloo, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed the Student Religious Liberties Act into law on Wednesday.
House Bill 1303 seeks to ensure that students’ religious viewpoints are not subject to discrimination by teachers and school officials, including the right to pray or engage in religious discussions to the same extent students are allowed to engage in non-religious expression. The bill likewise authorizes students to wear clothing, accessories and jewelry with religious messages or symbols to the same extent other non-religious expressive clothing is allowed.
It also requires school districts to establish limited public forum policies for official school events, seeking to authorize student religious expression at such events. (I noted this especially concerning provision in an earlier post.)
The law is similar to a bill vetoed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in April. There, the Governor emphasized that the law already protects against such discrimination. By also potentially creating school-sponsored religious activities, he said, the bill also increased the likelihood of litigation unnecessarily.