By Mira Soni
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a religious expression bill on Friday the requires public schools to allow students to lead prayers during the school day and at school sanctioned events.
SB 436 https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/436/BillText/er/HTML, known as the Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act, has extensive provisions. School districts are prohibited from discriminating against students, parents or school staff on the basis of religion, and from penalizing or rewarding students on the basis of the religious content of their coursework. Students may wear clothing displaying religious symbols and engage in religious activities during, before, and after the school day. School staff are allowed to participate in religious clubs or events during school hours. Religious groups may use the same facilities for meetings as secular groups, and students may speak about religion or lead school prayers at school sanctioned events, providing they state that their speech is not an endorsement of their religion by the school.
The bill, which was passed by the Senate in May, made it through the legislature with significant controversy http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article155408434.html . One Democratic senator went so far as to call the bill “unconstitutional”, while Senate Republicans argued that it was necessary to protect the constitutional rights of students and teachers.