House panel OKs prayer for faculty

Posted June 3, 2014

The House Education Committee voted Tuesday for a bill that allows school faculty to participate in student-led prayer, even though similar laws have been struck down elsewhere.

— The House Education Committee voted Tuesday for a bill that allows school faculty to participate in student-led prayer, even though similar laws have been struck down elsewhere. 

Senate Bill 370, Respect for Student Prayer/Religious Activity, passed the Senate unanimously in May 2013 but has not been heard yet in the House. 

Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, said it was prompted by a McDowell County student who was not allowed to read a poem she wrote about her grandfather at a school Veteran's Day program because the poem talked about his faith.

“It was censored by school administrators,” Daniel said. “Can you imagine how this child felt?”

He said there have also been problems with coaches "being advised they may not be present when student-athletes gathered to pray."

The bill allows that “faculty may be present and may adopt a respectful posture” during student-led prayer. Daniel said the provision would guarantee statewide consistency.

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said he supports the bill overall but warned the committee that the provision saying faculty "may adopt a respectful posture" has already been struck down by federal appellate courts in two different parts of the country. 

The rulings said the "respectful posture" clause "gets into the entanglement issue under the First Amendment when you have teachers participating in a way that crosses the line and endorses the practice,“ Glazier explained. “A respectful display is permissible, but only where it doesn’t cross the line." 

A constitutional law professor, he offered an amendment to strike the phrase from the bill. 

"We ought not be passing provisions that we know have case law out there declaring them unconstitutional,” he said. "We’re setting ourselves up, under existing case law, to be sued. I think we have an oath to the taxpayers that we’re on point." 

Daniel, an attorney, spoke against the amendment. "It’s a sad day in America when we can’t tell a coach they can bow their head when a student is leading a prayer," he said.

“It breaks my heart that we’re at the point in American history where we need a bill,” said Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven. “Anything about separation of church and state, all that stuff, it’s not even in the Constitution. We need to remember what principles this country was founded on.”

Rep, Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, also spoke against Glazier's amendment.

“We live in a society where there is an all-out assault on God in the public square," Jones said. "People will file lawsuits regardless what we do."

Glazier's amendment was voted down 28-11.

The bill passed the committee easily and could be on the House floor later this week.


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  • juliomercado Jun 4, 2014

    While it is highly unlikely this law will stand up to constitutional scrutiny in a court of law given the vindictive and spiteful nature of our Senate, North Carolina needs all the prayers she can get. Seriously folks, with a mass exodus of teachers from the state, 1/2 the counties suffering with continuing effects of the recession, a 200 million plus deficit, a desperate need for jobs in the state, THIS is what they are spending their time doing? Yep, we need prayers in the Tar Heel state for sure!

  • Paul Maxwell Jun 3, 2014
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    Well said.

  • sinenomine Jun 3, 2014

    When I was in elementary school we were required at the start of each day to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (this was before the "under God" clause was added) and to recite the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer.

    I am Methodist. My best friend in elementary school (who, by the way, is still one of my best friends today) was Jewish. Jewish, mind you, and forced to recite the Lord's Prayer.

    I thought it was wrong then and I still think it's wrong now.

    If you, good Christian, disagree first consider how you would feel if a teacher were to force your eight year old to recite an Islamic prayer or one to Buddha.

  • Dolly Butler Jun 3, 2014
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    I wish that all the people who are promoting Prayer would spend their lives living like they love their neighbor

  • BurtReynoldsBigHat Jun 3, 2014

    If you want to see the other side of the argument, look no further than Canada. Parents and churches protested because a school with an 80% Muslim population was allowing for student-led prayer during lunch.

    It's not preferential treatment or discrimination until it happens to you.


  • BurtReynoldsBigHat Jun 3, 2014

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    No one is keeping anyone from praying a Hindu prayer or a Muslim prayer. Until they try to pray in public, then it becomes "a strategy to replace the Bible with the Koran."


    It's not the prayer, but the one they pray to that is offensive to some of you.

  • sinenomine Jun 3, 2014

    In view of the fact that similar laws have already been found unconstitutional elsewhere why are the legislators who voted for this one wasting their time? Didn't they take an oath to uphold the Constitution when they became lawmakers? Why do they mock it now? And if they knowingly refuse to obey the established law of the land how can they expect others for whom they legislate to obey their enactments?

  • Doug Pawlak Jun 3, 2014
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    It's the part where school officials are told to "adopt a respectful" posture". That in effect is a silent endorsement of that particular religion. No one cares if any person does a silent prayer and no one would stop it, but letting one religion do it with the endorsement of school officials amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of a certain religion. Are you OK if a student does an Islamic prayer with the silent and respectful endorsement of school officials while making all the girls sit in the back and be silent? Are you OK if somebody wants to do a prayer for the Church of body modification or a Wiccan prayer?


  • Thomas Williams Jun 3, 2014
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    For those raising an uproar over people praying, I would ask what harm are they doing? Is it b/c you don't like the sight of people praying? No one is keeping anyone from praying a Hindu prayer, or a Muslim prayer, or any other prayer. If they want to pray, they can, it hurts no one. Some of you don't like who the prayer is directed to, that is the real reason on my opinion. It is not the prayer, but the one they pray to that is offensive to some of you.

  • Kevin Oliver Jun 3, 2014
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    Well said. Our pathetic legislature (and those who voted them into office) are still of the impression there is only one religion in the state, when the increasingly diverse public schools have hundreds of religions. But let's continue to try and cram one specific religion down everyones' throats to score political points with the rural voting base. And by the way Rep. Speciale, this land was actually "founded on" native American spirituality, not the Christianity that wiped out entire American races through genocide. Go back to school. The PEOPLES' school, not your personal religious indoctrination center.