A bill in the Alabama State Legislature proposed to ensure protect a student’s right to express religious beliefs on public school property received a favorable report from the state's Education Policy Committee on Thursday.
The legislation under consideration would prohibit school district officials from discriminating against students and parents for religious reasons and would allow religious expression in schools.
Education Policy Committee Chairperson Terri Collins said she thinks this legislation would make students more comfortable with expressing their faiths without fear of retribution.
“We want them to be able to express themselves as they want, whether it’s in a project, or whatever,” Collins said. “It is about letting them have the same freedoms we all do.”
The legislation states each school system will adopt its own religious freedoms policy. Republicans in the Alabama State Legislature said House Bill 1 is a top priority this session.
Other states with Republican-controlled state legislatures have also authored bills concerning public school students’ rights to express religious thoughts and sentiments.
On Tuesday, the Georgia State Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Senate Bill 129, a religious liberty bill. The Georgia General Assembly will debate this and another religious liberty bill this session.
Critics of the bill say they think religious liberty bills are not necessary and could lead to more discrimination.
“It is not just bad public policy; it is ill-conceived, unnecessary, mean-spirited and deserving of a swift death in the General Assembly,” said former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers.
Collins said the bill is necessary because she thinks public schools do not encourage students to freely express their religious beliefs.
“(Students) have religious freedoms, they have the same freedoms as adults, but because they’re in a school environment, under supervision, sometimes there’s a caution that’s built in,” Collins said.