December 2013 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A Utah state senator is poised to sponsor a bill he claims would guarantee the religious freedom rights of public school students, although critics say the measure is unnecessary.

Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross) patterned the bill after Mississippi’s “Student Religious Liberties Act.” The bill would guarantee students the right to wear religious clothing, distribute literature and adopt religious topics for classroom assignments. More controversially, it would also permit students to deliver religious messages over school loudspeakers, as long as the students specify that they are speaking as individuals and not as representatives of the school.

Critics call some of the bill’s provisions redundant, pointing out that most of the rights it supposedly protects are already guaranteed for students. Additionally, the provision permitting students to deliver religious messages via school loudspeaker could violate previous court rulings on the subject.

Weiler calls the bill a precautionary measure.

“This bill won’t be reacting to anything in particular that occurred in Utah but hopefully getting some ground rules so that we don’t have anything to react to in the future,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.