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Prayer Bill Advancing in Indiana to Welcome God Back in Schools

03-01-2017
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WASHINGTON -- A state bill coming out of the Indiana House of Representatives is giving new life to the decades old debate over prayer in school.  

The bipartisan bill known as HB-1024 states that students may pray or engage in religious activities before, during and after the school day without discrimination. It also says students are permitted to wear religious apparel and jewelry as long as it is in accordance with the school dress policy.  

Critics of the bill say it's nothing more than political grandstanding as there was already a law on the books permitting "silent prayer" in schools. 

So was this really necessary? Indiana state Rep. Lloyd Arnold says absolutely.

"It's going back to the clarification. Kids can pray. It can be silent prayer, but we give them the true freedom with this bill, "Arnold explained to CBN News. 

"They're not forcing it upon anybody. The kids can pray out loud. They can pray at lunch," he continued. 

But critics say this is a slippery slope, especially when it comes to a teacher's direct involvement in the prayer or influence over students. 

"That was struck down in 1962 by the Supreme Court. You can no longer mandate prayer in school; however, this is not mandating," Arnold said. 

He also says the bill is not meant to solely protect Christians but students of all faiths.  

"Me being a Christian, I honor those other people's faith and have respect for them, for what they choose to believe…if they want to pray, they can pray and do so freely without anybody telling them they can't," said Arnold. 

Arnold says he has heard a lot of praise for the bill. But it has also been met with criticism, specifically from the ACLU of Indiana who say this particular bill can lead to bigger problems for the schools if and when it is used outside of its intended purpose. 

"By creating what is called an open forum, that means that schools can't control what the kids say...If someone stands up at his or her graduation and gives a talk concerning why slavery never should been abolished," ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk told CBN News. 

"What this bill says is that the schools cannot control that speech. I don't think people realize what sort of control schools are surrendering. Once they try to exercise that control by saying, 'you can have this kind of speech but you can't have that kind of speech' that's when the constitutional problem arises,"  he warned. 

Despite the opposition, HB-1024 passed the House with a vote of 83-12. It now moves on to the Senate.

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