Chesterton Tribune



Indiana Senate panel takes up bill allowing praying aloud in schools

Back To Front Page



Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - An Indiana bill that reaffirms students’ right to pray aloud in public schools is prompting debate over how students of minority religions would be affected by the practice.

The proposal requires school districts to adopt a policy allowing for a “limited public forum” for prayer at school events such as sports games or assemblies. The idea, Democratic state Rep. John Bartlett said, is to put prayer back in schools in the hopes that exposing students to religion could lead to better behavior and a more prayerful life.

But lawmakers and advocates are questioning how a school community would respond to non-Christian requests and how students in the minority might be burdened. Some say they have a “hard time picturing” that the religious expression of minority religious groups would be treated the same as a Christian one.

“What if a group of Muslim students wanted to pray right in that ceremony? How would that have been accepted - or would it have caused an outcry?” Democratic Sen. Mark Stoops said.

Under the bill, students who don’t want to participate would be given “reasonable accommodations” if they want to be excused from a religious speech.

Still, to some, that move gives more power to the majority at the expense of the minority.

“The onus” would then be placed on “the one who does not consent to the prayer - to leave the room or bow their head in shame and quietly mumble ‘Amen’ - rather than where the onus is currently, and should be,” Rabbi Shelley Goldman said, “with the faithful person, to find a moment and space for private prayer in public school without imposing such prayer on others.”

To protect from one religious viewpoint dominating the forum, the proposal instructs school districts to select students who may speak based on “neutral criteria.” A model policy would be drafted in cooperation with the state’s attorney general and schools chief.

Bartlett contends his bill is a chance for those with religious beliefs to express them aloud, which could have a positive impact on peers.

“Where we’re headed today, we need some spiritual guidance,” he said. “Is this the answer? I don’t know. I think we need to try this.”

Other supporters say school is a place to learn and that any differences brought to light could be an opportunity to educate students on different cultures or religions.

At least three states have enacted laws with language establishing a “public forum” for religious expression at school events. Still, many opponents questioned the necessity of such a proposal, saying schools already acknowledge freedom of religion.

The House approved the measure in an 83-12 vote last month. Other provisions encourage high school classes on world religion and affirm students’ right to wear religious clothing or jewelry.

The Senate education committee held its first hearing on the bill Wednesday. A second meeting, where lawmakers could provide amendments and decide whether or not to advance the bill, has yet to be scheduled.



Posted 3/9/3017




Search This Site:

Custom Search