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2010-04-16 digital edition

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April 16, 2010  RSS feed

Text: T T T

ADL drops opposition after provisions for prayer at school events removed

By Robert Gren Jewish Press

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has dropped its opposition to Florida House Bill 31 after language that would have allowed prayers at some public school events was cut from the legislation.

The bill as introduced would have permitted inspirational messages at non-compulsory school events such as sports and dances. The ADL and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the original bill saying it would violate the constitutional ban on prayers in public schools.

The provision for inspirational messages was dropped from the bill at a meeting of the House Policy Council committee on April 8. The only other section in the bill bars public school boards from entering into agreements which would restrict the First Amendment religious freedoms of teachers and other school principles.

Rep. Greg Evers, a Republican from northwest Florida who is the bill’s chief sponsor, said the legislation was introduced in response to the settlement of an ACLU law suit last year by the Santa Rosa County school board which prohibits teachers and school officials from taking part in religious activities with students.

“This bill is about so much more than school prayer or inspirational speech, it’s about protecting Floridians’ First Amendment rights,” Evers said in a statement, referring to teachers and school officials now being restricted from taking part in religious activities with students, due to the outcome of the Santa Rosa County lawsuit.

But David Barkey of the ADL said the bill now would have little affect if it becomes law. “Our biggest concern has been alleviated,” Barkey said.

Although ADL has withdrawn its opposition, the ACLU still opposes the bill which must be approved by the House Education Committee before it can go to the full House of Representatives.

A similar bill has been introduced in the Florida Senate but no action has been taken on it.

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