June 2017 Church & State - June 2016

Ind. Approves Religion-In-Schools Law

  AU admin

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb pledged to sign a bill the state’s General Assembly passed that might coerce students into school prayer in Indiana public schools.

HB 1024 claims to stop public schools from restricting a student’s “voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint,” but Americans United states that it’s about promoting school prayer.

In an April 18 letter urging Holcomb to veto the bill, AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett asserted that while public school students can already engage in voluntary, student-initiated prayer, “the bill does not place adequate limitations on proselytization in classrooms.”

“This bill …  does not clearly differentiate between student expression that relates to personal observance of religion and student expression that constitutes ‘outward promotion’ of religion or ‘proselytizes a particular view,’” Garrett wrote.

Garrett noted that the bill also doesn’t distinguish between elementary-and secondary-education policy, which is problematic given that younger children may not be able to tell whether certain religious speech is school-sponsored.

“Americans United supports the right of students to engage in student-initiated and student-led, voluntary prayer and other constitutionally protected religious expression,” Garrett concluded. “But this bill does not       accurately distinguish between speech permitted and prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Con­sti­tution and provides no safeguards to prevent proselytization in the classroom.”

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