Students' right to pray reaffirmed by Senate committee

Posted May 8, 2013

— Legislation approved Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee reaffirms that students can pray in public schools, a right that some lawmakers and others say is being curtailed by teachers confused by the law.

Senate Bill 370 would allow students to pray silently at any time or out loud during non-instructional time as long as the prayer is initiated by students – not teachers or staff – and nobody is forced to participate. Also, any school employees present during a student prayer would be encouraged to "adopt a respectful posture."

"Teachers and the schools don't really understand current law. That's the problem," said Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba. "They're telling students they can't talk about God or anything else that's religious."

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, agreed that teachers, because of ignorance or "base motives," sometimes "intimidate students into silence or inaction on matters of faith."

"They've either directly told them or given them the impression that schools are supposed to be completely God-free or religion-free zones," Creech said, adding the legislation could help embolden students against being "bullied into suppressing their expressions of faith."

Prayer can inspire students to succeed and provide comfort during difficult times, he said in praising the bill.

Some parents said they bill sounds redundant because it primarily restates current law.

Hoke County classroom Some say teachers don't allow student prayer in schools

"I'm not against it. It's just not necessary," said Dan Jemiolo, whose daughter isn't yet old enough to attend school.

"It's supposed to get people riled up and feel like they want to contribute money to the people who are fighting hard for their ability to pray in school, but that right has never been a problem," Jemiolo said.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, called the proposal a waste of time and money.

"It does nothing except cost money to prepare the bill (and) costs time for our staff," said Kinnaird, who isn't a member of the committee. "But (sponsors) will get a lot of press at home."

Sponsor Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, said the law needs to be clarified, pointing to instances where coaches weren't allowed to stay when a group of athletes were praying.

"What this bill does (is) it codifies what current case law is, and it creates more certainty in the school system so that you don't have different treatments," Daniel said.

Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, asked whether language in the bill would allow a student to stand up and pray during a school assembly in response to other students speaking on non-religious topics.

Sponsors said that wouldn't occur because the measure precludes any disruption of school curriculum.

"If that action is deemed disruptive to the learning process, whether they're praying or standing there doing hand signals or whatever, they may be removed from the classroom. They may even be suspended from school," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, the committee chairman and a retired school administrator.

"Whatever they're doing must not disrupt the learning process," Tillman said. "It's got to be done in a civil and obedient and meditative spirit."

Leanne Winner, director of government relations for the North Carolina School Boards Association, said school boards statewide were comfortable with much of the proposal, but officials are still working through language in the bill with sponsors on resolving grievances and the prohibition against school employees leading prayers.

The bill passed on a voice vote and now heads to the Senate floor.


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  • crouch1010 May 9, 2013

    Pray for jobs kids! You are going to need divine intervention in that regards with policies that are being established to keep the wealthy rich even when they are not creating anything to earn additional wealth. Second, kids you need to pray for the wisdom to see through the con games which pit self profit over societal profit. Why the government needs to waste time on affirming prayer in school is beyond me. I prayed before many tests in school and never has a person ever said it was illegal. I've prayed at work and never had an issue. Who are these people that are saying the government needs to take a stand on the issue? Take a stand on jobs and job creation. Stopping prayer is like stopping people from speaking. Another wasted bill by the NC House at tax payer expense.

  • Not_So_Dumb May 9, 2013

    "You have no way of knowing Jesus is real no more then I know being gay is something you were not born with" - StateFan99

    Wrong. Genetics. DNA. Look it up. There is a difference between fact and faith. Fact is knowing that something exists, faith is not knowing it doesn't.

  • StateFan99 May 9, 2013

    well, that's not true either- and you know it. The uproar was over the fact that CFA SAID they had stopped giving to groups that support KILLING gays because they are gay- and it was a LIE.

    No, that's NOT what is was about They have always donated to pro-family groups, this stuff about killing gays in non-sense. If you ACTUALLY did your research about these companies maybe you would see the good they do for communities FAR outweighs the bad. People were protesting because he said in an interview he believes in traditional marriage, between a man and a woman,, and you know that. You have no way of knowing Jesus is real no more then I know being gay is something you were not born with, but something that happened because of various external factors. So stop calling it a fairytale, just because you don't believe in faith like I do gives you no right to call something not real. Have you ever seen a million dollars? Just because you've never seen it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

  • Not_So_Dumb May 9, 2013

    So kids can pray in school but cannot speak to a doctor about drug abuse? Umm, what? Why is it that these people think kids should have some rights of free speech but not others?

  • Crumps Br0ther May 9, 2013

    "NO! We aren't going anywhere so you better get used to it." - dwntwnboy2

    Neither are guns and any other thing that makes you libs feel icky. Get used to it

  • Crumps Br0ther May 9, 2013

    Conservatism is one thing but xenophobia is another. Your comments put you in the latter camp.

    Intresting, considering you are quick to use terms like inbred and hicks in some of your comments. Thats a style of bigotry and xenophobia as well. But of course your liberal double standard absolves you from that because its different when you do it

  • Crumps Br0ther May 9, 2013

    Libs have no problems with Muslims praying in schools. But they are scared of them and pretty much support them in every thing they want. Probably because of that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" mantra.

  • dwntwnboy2 May 8, 2013

    "asking a christian business owner who is closed on Sundays (Chick-Fil-A) his views on gay marriage, then suddenly act shocked when we hear his answer"- well, that's not true either- and you know it. The uproar was over the fact that CFA SAID they had stopped giving to groups that support KILLING gays because they are gay- and it was a LIE. They continue to support groups that spread lies and deliberately marginalize gays and lesbians all for the hope of more money and a place in heaven. I say that and I LOVE CFA but can never go back into one because they support hate and violence against a group of people for no other reason than the way they were born. Sick that religion is protected and it's a choice while being gay isn't and it's not a choice- BELIEVE me it's not a choice anyone would make- it's just who we are. My boss can't come in here and say "you're fired because we don't like athiests/jews/christians" etc, but he CAN come in and I can lose my job for being born gay.

  • dwntwnboy2 May 8, 2013

    "NO! We aren't going anywhere so you better get used to it.

    Then STOP complaining about how things are here."- I didn't "come here". I was BORN here, as were both my parents and their parents and so on for at LEAST 7 generations that I can find. I think I have just as much right to this state as YOU do. I'm trying to make MY state better than it was, and it's going well!

  • caryzoo May 8, 2013

    I have no problem with students praying in school. If they disrupt my own learning disabled daughter's right to an education (verbal disruption, like this). A lawsuit will follow. ANY student talking aloud in class above, under, or around, the teacher is disrespectful of not only the school, but the teacher and fellow students who do what they are SUPPOSED to do...learn. Not listen to Dick and Jane pray. I send my children to school to LEARN...prayer comes at home each and every day. Leave it out of my daughter's classroom...I can, and will, prove, it disrupted my daughter's education. Then every taxpaying person in this county will be paying a LOT of money for my girl to get the education she was entitled to, and was DENIED by some big mouth in class.