House approves bill that would let students express faith on campus.
Texas Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, left, talks with Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, right, in the House chamber in Austin. Lawmakers debated Howard’s legislation that would encourage schools to adopt policy making it easier for students to voluntarily pray without fear of legal repercussions.
By GARY SCHARRER
May 1, 2007 – The Scrooge Report Post
AUSTIN, Texas — Legislation designed to give public school students opportunities to express religious viewpoints tentatively cleared the House on Monday despite warnings that it will have unintended consequences.
The bill would require school districts to adopt a policy allowing student speakers to express a religious perspective during limited public forums, such as football games, graduation ceremonies and school assemblies.
“This bill provides protection for students and school officials. Right now we have confusion in the schools about religious expression, and students are being discriminated against,” said Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, author of House Bill 3678.
Current law allows students to organize prayer groups, religious clubs and similar gatherings during the school day, and they must be given the same access to school facilities as other noncurricular groups.
Howard said his bill does not give students any new rights or take any away. But critics contend the expansion of student prayer at football games and other school-related activities would raise constitutional questions.
A separate bill that would make it easier for school districts to offer courses in the Bible is expected to reach the House floor soon.
The House voted 110-33 for the “Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberties Act.” The legislation will head to the Senate for consideration after a final House vote today.