November 2014 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Legislators in Alabama have proposed a bill that would roll back restrictions on school-sponsored religious activities. reports that the bill, which has been proposed in both chambers of the legislature by State Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Gulf Shores) and State Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), would permit teachers and other school personnel to participate in “student-initiated” religious events.

The bill reads in part: “A local board of education may not prohibit school personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are initiated by students at reasonable times before or after the instructional day so long as such activities are voluntary for all parties and do not conflict with the responsibilities or assignments of such personnel.”

Its sponsors argue that it would, if passed, protect teachers.

“How are you going to deny a teacher, and tell them they can’t pray?” Dial told local press. “You’re violating their constitutional rights.”

AU Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper rejected that argument, saying, “It creates an undue pressure on students to join in.”

The bill would also affirm students’ rights to pray voluntarily and participate in religious activities at school – a right already upheld by multiple court rulings on the subject. According to McMillan and Dial, the Foundation for Moral Law, a Religious Right legal group founded by Roy Moore, now Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, has already agreed to defend the state in case of a lawsuit.