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Religious Liberties Act Heading to the Senate Floor

March 14, 2017 - 6:00pm

The Florida Senate Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Senator Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, passed Senate Bill 436, Religious Expression in Public Schools, on Tuesday.

The legislation creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” and specifies that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.
“Students of any faith, or no faith, have a right to free speech,” said Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.  “The government should not impose a religion, but all too often we see the other extreme where we are taking away people’s right to free speech and their right to practice their faith in a way they believe is appropriate. This legislation makes it clear that we support the constitutional rights of Freedom and Speech and Freedom of Religion for everyone associated with our public school system.”
“Students should not have to surrender their constitutional rights at the school house door. Neither should teachers, administrators or parents,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, one of the bill's sponsors. “Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion are fundamental to our way of life as Americans and this legislation ensures that we protect these critical rights in our public schools.”
Senate Bill 436 authorizes students to express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments, free from discrimination, said the Senate office in a written statement. Students may also wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol to the same extent secular types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols are permitted in public school dress codes. Further, students may pray, or engage in and organize religious activities before, during, and after the school day, to the same extent student engagement in secular activity or expression, and the organization of secular activities and groups are permitted.
The legislation requires a school district to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and specifies that a school district may not prevent school personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are student-initiated at reasonable times before or after the school day.
Districts must allow a religious group access to the same school facilities for assembling as a secular group without discrimination. Additionally, the bill requires school districts to adopt a policy that establishes a limited public forum for student speakers at any school event at which a student is to speak publicly. The legislation also requires the Florida Department of Education to develop and publish on its website a model policy regarding a limited public forum and the voluntary expression of religious viewpoints by students and school personnel in public schools. The model policy must be adopted and implemented by each district school board.


I support this Bill. Right now it appears that the School Dept will not allow anyone affiliated with religion to be a speaker in school. Yet a homosexual advocacy group is allowed in the school system to plan events.. I agree with the previous comment that barbaric Islam should be excluded since it advocates killing anyone who is not a Muslim. What kind of message does it give a student when anything religious is treated as a violation while homosexuality is accepted? No wonder students are confused. .

"Students should not have to surrender their constitutional rights at the school house door." Then why do we have to talk about "campus" carry?

This is a tough one for me. On one hand, all student s of religious beliefs should be offer the same benefits of non-religious students in Florida schools. On the other hand, are we creating an environment that can foster extremist religions to set root, recruit and grow? Again this is tough but I think I will have to side with the Bill. At least we will be able to identify who could be potential radicals or give students the opportunity to see various sides to the wonderful world of religion. I'm trying to think positive :-)

The article states "The legislation requires a school district to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964". How about the passing a law that the legislature does not waste time passing laws that already exist? The whole wording is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

See Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom for guidance on the basic 1st Amendment issue of Separation of Church and State. But basic literacy is a prerequisite.

To what end? Who benefits? Usually the extremists on the fringes of society!

So worshipping the devil is a religion. Then there is the church of Scientology. Muslims, Jews, Athiests...I don't think school is the place for religious arguments.

The government saw fit to remove the "Pledge of Allegiance" from public schools. For what reason I don't know and I'm sure I would never understand. Now for some reason our government wants to bring religion into public schools. I see nothing but trouble coming out of this. Why doesn't our government just leave things alone, they have done enough damage as it is. As a kid I would stand with pride every morning with my hand over my heart and recite the Pledge. Why don't they reinstate the "Pledge of Allegiance" with the word god in it and call it a day.

you are mistaken on "the pledge"

This is insane. Pass a law that forbids uniforms and dress codes and move on. Sheesh..

Exclude barbaric islam. It is a hostile political system in religious drag.

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