Bill requiring ‘silent reflection’ to start school day passes Florida House
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida classrooms would be required to start the day with a moment of silence under a bill that passed off the House floor on Wednesday. But the proposal has led to some concerns about the separation of church and state.
Lawmakers say they hope to improve the mental health of students by requiring one to two minutes of silent reflection at the start of each school day. But the specific statute the bill changes also includes “permitting study of bible and religion.”
Devon Graham with American Atheists fears the bill is a back door way of mandating prayer in schools.
“It’s not neutral, it’s not innocuous by any stretch of the imagination,” said Graham. “There’s supposed to be a strict separation of church and state and it’s for the best for everyone. When things like this impede upon that, that’s an issue for everybody.”
The bill received unanimous support as it moved through the House committee process but earned 20 “no” votes when passed off the chamber floor.
It’s faced continued opposition from some Senate Democrats.
“I think you put kids in a very uncomfortable position when they’re in a classroom and the majority of the class is of one faith,” Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Fort Lauderdale) during the bill’s final Senate committee stop on Monday.
But Senate sponsor Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) argued the bill is crafted to benefit students from all backgrounds.
“Without crossing the line with advocating what people do during that moment of silence. That would be between them and their parents,” said Baxley.
Growing number of states pushing ‘Bible literacy’ classes in public schools
A growing number of states are considering bringing the Bible back to the classroom.
At least six states — Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia — have introduced legislation this year pushing for public schools to offer Bible literacy classes.
Supporters say learning the basics of the Bible is an important part of American history — and students should not be denied learning its tenets just because someone might be offended.
The laws being proposed do not make Bible classes mandatory, but they will be offered as electives.
"Yeah, there’s a separation of church and state, but there’s not a separation of books from education," North Dakota State Rep. Aaron McWilliams, who co-sponsored a Bible bill in his state, told Fox & Friends Monday morning. "If we don’t have a good foundational understanding of this, we’re not going to understand how the Founding Fathers of our country and other countries put it together to have the world we have today."
Even President Trump has weighed in on the issue. He celebrated the efforts in a tweet Monday morning.
"Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible," Trump wrote. "Starting to make a turn back? Great!"
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