Religion

Kentucky Legislative Committee Approves Voluntary Prayer Bill

| by Kendal Mitchell
Kentucky  Sen. Albert Robinson.Kentucky  Sen. Albert Robinson.

A committee in Kentucky’s state legislature approved a bill in February that would allow students to engage in peer-led religious or political expression in public schools.

The State Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure, and it went to the state Senate to be further considered.

State Sen. Albert Robinson said he wanted to sponsor the bill because he thinks students should have the right to express their religious or political ideologies without fear of repression.

In 2011, Kentucky's Department of Education told school officials in Bell County that prayer over a public announcement system before football games went against the Constitution.

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group that advocates for the separation of church and state, filed a complaint against the Bell County School District to end the tradition of a minister saying a prayer before kick-off.

Robinson said his bill would allow student-led prayer at school events, such as football games.

Other organization in Kentucky voiced opposition to the bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky program director Derek Selznick said he thinks the bill is redundant.

"(The bill is) an unnecessary attempt to overregulate in an area already protected by the First Amendment," Selznick said.

He added he thinks the bill may allow public primary, secondary and collegiate institutions to limit funding for some student groups and could discriminate against students based on sexual orientation or religion.

The Kentucky state legislature has passed other laws protecting religious freedom in the past.

In 2013, Kentucky’s General Assembly voted to overturn Gov. Steve Beshear’s veto over the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act.

Congress passed a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, which states the federal government cannot limit religious expression unless it conflicts with a compelling government interest.

Committee members filed a discharge petition for the bill on March 10.  

Sources: Lexington Herald-Leader, Examiner, Kentucky Legislature

Photo Credit: Twitter