South Carolina Democrats Lead Push for Mandatory Public School Prayer
Raw Story reports state representatives have introduced a bill, H. 3526, that would force teachers to lead and enforce a “minute of mandatory silence” at the beginning of each school day “so as to permit schools to lead a prayer.” Students who do not wish to participate would be allowed to leave the classroom.
Most of the bill’s sponsors are Democrats. The state representatives who introduced it are: Wendell Gilliard (D), Joseph Jefferson (D), Carl Anderson (D), Liston Barfield (R), Bill Clyburn (D), Heather Ammons Crawford (R), Lonnie Hosey (D), Robert Ridgeway III (D) and Don Wells (R).
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that teacher-led prayer is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The Establishment Clause prohibits government from establishing an official religion, favoring one religion over another, favoring religion over non-religion or favoring non-religion over religion.
In an attempt to reach a compromise, Rep. Gilliard told WCIV that teachers might lead students into the mandatory minute of silence, rather than lead them in actual prayer.
“The compromise would be to have the students pray to whomever they want to,” Gilliard explained. “If they want to do with teachers conducting the prayer that would be fine with us. The essential part of the bill, the important part, is putting prayer back in school.”
Reaction to the proposed bill has been mixed.
Without any apparent irony, Charleston resident Sharon Dale responded to the WCIV article by opining, “I believe that we need to bring the moment of silence back into the school system if we are to be considered a free nation.”
“When prayer was in school, [US] education was #1 in the world,” wrote Gordon Cashwell of Charleston. “Statistics demonstrate that the deterioration of our public school corresponded with the removal of prayer from school.”
“When I was a child, we had prayer in school,” countered Deborah Jenkines of Charleston. “It was an opportunity for teachers to push their beliefs, some quite bizarre, on those children who were raised in a different faith. It is not anything that I ever want to see again. Do you really trust the public school system to teach spirituality? Teaching reading and math is enough of a challenge.”
H. 3526, which was introduced last February, is languishing in the state House Committee on Judiciary.
Tagged Bill Clyburn, Establishment Clause, Heather Ammons Crawford, Liston Barfield, Lonnie Hosey, Rep. Carl Anderson, Rep. Don Wells, Rep. Joseph Jefferson, Robert Ridgeway III, school prayer, school prayer unconstitutional, separation of church and state, South Carolina, South Carolina H.3526, South Carolina school prayer bill, Wendell Gilliard