Raleigh, N.C. — The state House passed a measure Wednesday allowing public school teachers to participate in student-led prayers, despite the potential for legal challenges.
"This bill is not a fringe or a radical religious bill," said Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell.
The House voted 106-9 to return the measure to the Senate, which must vote to concur with a handful of House changes in order to send the bill to Gov. Pat McCrory.
"Ninety-nine percent of this bill is faithful to the constitution," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who voted for the measure.
The 1 percent Glazier took issue with is a line allowing teachers, coaches and other public school employees to "adopt a respectful posture" when students are praying. That includes a teacher bowing his or her head in prayer with students while gathered around a flag pole or a coach taking a knee with a team.
The U.S. Constitution "protects the person who stands outside the circle, to not to be ostracized by the state," Glazier said. Teachers joining students in prayer could leave students of other religions, or students who are not religious, feeling pressured or left out of the group, he said.
Courts have struck down the "respectful posture" reference in other states, said Glazier, who predicts it will be challenged in court.
Others debating the bill said it merely clarifies what students can and cannot do on school property.
"This is something that we constantly, constantly have to fight as something you're allowed to do as a student-led organization," said Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, who has participated in student-led prayers as a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"It doesn't say Christian prayer," said Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, insisting the measure would also protect Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist prayers. "To me, this bill is about defending everybody's freedom."