Proposed South Carolina Bill Would Allow Teachers to Participate in Student-Led Prayer

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A proposed bill in South Carolina would allow teachers to participate in times of student-led prayer and to join in on any student-led religious clubs.

H.B. 3345, sponsored by Reps. Bill Chumley, Mike Burns and Stephen Long, was filed in the state General Assembly on December 15.

“[T]he South Carolina General Assembly finds that the concept of academic freedom is derived from the guarantee of free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which also permits the free exercise of religious beliefs,” the bill’s introduction reads in part.

It therefore allows for public school teachers to join in times of student prayer if desired, or also lead a prayer if requested by students.

“A teacher employed by a public school district may express a religious viewpoint, and also may conduct or participate in any student-led prayer or student-organized prayer groups, religious clubs, or other religious gatherings organized by students of a public school,” the legislation reads.

However, some have expressed opposition to the measure out of their belief that the move would be unconstitutional. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion (FFRF) said in a press release that the bill is really about “emboldening public school teachers to violate the law.”

“It invites public school teachers to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in the classroom and to participate in student-organized prayer events and religious clubs. Such actions would violate both the federal Equal Access Act, which sets boundaries for teacher participation in student clubs, and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which, in part, protects the rights of public school students to an education free from religious proselytization,” the organization remarked.

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Tim Peacock of Peacock Panache opined that the bill would invite similar activity from Muslims and Satanists. He provided a hypothetical scenario of teachers requiring students to purchase Islamic prayer rugs.

“Christians may be surprised to learn that even if H.B. 3345 withstood constitutional muster, it wouldn’t just allow Christianity to be inserted into schools, but also every other religious belief—including Sharia Law, Satanism, and more,” he wrote. “The U.S. Constitution forbids government institutions from offering favor to any one religion above others; therefore all religious beliefs would be allowed (by law) in South Carolina schools if H.B. 3345 passes.”

As previously reported, in 1828, just 52 years after the nation’s founding, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

Webster, a schoolmaster, wrote the quote in his preface to the nation’s first dictionary, which often cited Christianity and the Bible.

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