Indiana Lawmakers Considering Bill Protecting Religious Expression in Public Schools

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Lawmakers in Indiana are considering a bill that would protect religious expression in public schools, from student prayer to the wearing of religious symbols and messages and the citation of one’s religious beliefs in school assignments.

Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, recently introduced H.B. 1024, which passed the House 83-12 and is now being contemplated by a Senate committee.

“Public school students may pray or engage in religious activities or religious expressions before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression,” it reads in part.

The bill also instructs schools to create a limited public forum at school events so that students who voluntarily speak about their faith may do so freely and without obstruction.

“To ensure that a school corporation does not discriminate against a student’s publicly stated voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, and to eliminate any actual or perceived affirmative school sponsorship or attribution to the school corporation of a student’s expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, a school corporation or charter school shall adopt a policy, which must include the establishment of a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak,” it outlines.

The legislation additionally outlines that students are to be permitted to wear religious symbols or slogans on their clothes or jewelry, and must not be discriminated against for including religious themes in their school assignments.

Bartlett says that the bill will help provide guidance for schools that aren’t sure how to handle expressions of faith on campus.

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“A lot of schools are afraid to let students pray because they’re not sure they will be sued. This bill here puts everything in perspective,” he said.

As the legislation was discussed this week by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, student Mary Zakrajsek shared how her pro-life poster had been removed from the walls of Carmel High School while other messages were allowed to be posted.

“When I walk down the hallway, and I see rainbow pride flags and Democrat donkeys, I think that’s pretty clear evidence of ideology that is promoted in public school systems. It became clear that it was our [pro-life] club in particular that was being discriminated against,” she testified, according to the Herald Bulletin.

When the bill was being contemplated by the House Education Committee last month, David W. Greene, Sr., president of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, told those gathered that prayer can help reduce moral decay among youth.

“I believe that school prayer may cause students to acknowledge a power greater than themselves, on which they can rely for comfort and help in times of trouble,” he stated. “This will lead to decreased reliance on drugs, alcohol, sex and dangerous amusements.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has opposed the legislation, stating that it could have unintended consequences.

“By creating what is called an open forum, that means that schools can’t control what the kids say … if someone stands up at his or her graduation and gives a talk concerning why slavery never should been abolished,” ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk told reporters.

“What this bill says is that the schools cannot control that speech. I don’t think people realize what sort of control schools are surrendering. Once they try to exercise that control by saying, ‘You can have this kind of speech but you can’t have that kind of speech,’ that’s when the constitutional problem arises,” he said.

A recent poll on WISH-TV shows that 49 percent of respondents believe prayer should be allowed in school, while 47 percent believe it should be prohibited. Two percent said they were unsure.

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  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Very good! People are religious beings, and schools should allow everyone to express one’s own religion, not just the beliefs in atheism and the support of immorality. It is impossible not to express one’s own cherished religion or beliefs in public life. Children and youth really need Christian expressions to respect authorities and each other. Secularism has only brought disrespect, meaninglessness, and immorality. This move is long-time over-due. The Muslim population must be bringing back the sense of respect for religion to the Western world that has become meaningless by having lost Christianity. Man is not animal. Man needs to honor God or at least seek Him to live like a decent human being. The USA needs Christianity for the truth and salvation and morality and civility.

  • tatoo

    This also means Muslim expression, atheist expression, Jewish expression, wearing of Turbans for Sikh boys, wearing of pentagrams for Satanists, etc. It will be fun.

  • Ken

    It’s been around since 1791 – “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So, all you opponents of free speech and free exercise of religion are clearly siding against the First Amendment.

    • Trilemma

      The Establishment Clause prohibits the Free Exercise of religion in certain situations. The government is not allowed to fund your free expression or provide an audience for you.

      • Royce E. Van Blaricome

        Better read the 1st Amendment again. You won’t find the word “funding” in it.

        • Trilemma

          The 1st Amendment says the government cannot pass a law favoring a religion. That includes laws that provide funding for schools and other government activities. A law cannot be passed that would end up funding religious expression.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            Wrong again. It’s actually quite amazing that you seem to be able to communicate in written form just fine. How is it that you have such trouble with reading.

            The 1st Amendment says NO such thing. Obviously you did not heed my advice above. Perhaps if I repeat it here. Better read the 1st Amendment again.

            Thanks for putting on public display a fine example of why this country is having the problems that it is. Did you come up thru the public school system? If so, there’s a testimony of just how pathetic a job its doing as well.

            Once again, the 1st Amendment saying NOTHING about “funding”.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No one is arguing that it does. Our point is that the broad language of the First Amendment incorporates ANY action that establishes or even tends to or encourages the establishment of religion.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            The language is only “broad” because you want it to be. The Constitution says what it say and “Congress” means “Congress”. “Establishes” means “establish”.

            But thanks for publicly displaying the mindset of the God-hating liberals that want any mention of Religion to be abolished. Much appreciated!

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Okay, now what does “respecting” mean?

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            Just exactly what it’s always meant. Try a dictionary.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            From Webster’s “In view of, considering, with respect to, concerning.”

            So the First Amendment not only forbids the government from making a law that establishes a religion, it forbids the government from making a law “considering, with respect to, or concerning” establishing a religion also. In other words, no laws that have anything to do with establishing a religion.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            Nice try. Keep working on it. You may get there some day. That’s the worst case of word salad I’ve seen in a LONG time.

            But hey, as always I appreciate you guys putting on your discombobulated thought processing on full display.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I guess we can’t all be as smart as you are. And by “we” I include the Supreme Court, because this is the interpretation they’ve used for decades.

          • Royce E. Van Blaricome

            Well, I have no idea about that but it doesn’t take a lot of smarts. Just the ability to read and not read into.

          • C_Alan_Nault

            love religion and God.

      • Dave R

        No, it doesn’t prohibit it at all.

  • Royce E. Van Blaricome

    It is a sad statement that we live in a day and age when a law must be passed to allow for what the Constitution and 1st Amendment clearly states but, alas, it appears we do. Perhaps these laws will begin to turn back the tide of godlessness that is taking so much ground.

  • RWH

    This will be quite interesting. And what are schools now going to do if a kid comes in wearing one of Mapplethorpe’s Piss Christ T-shirts? It’s a religious expression and therefore can’t be censored. And exactly what authority is going to determine what is and is not a “religious expression?” Let the fun begin!

    • Amos Moses

      “And what are schools now going to do if a kid comes in wearing one of Mapplethorpe’s Piss Christ T-shirts?”

      if it is not in the dress code for the school ….. they will be sent home ……….

      • RWH

        If you look at the way that the bill is worded, religious expression will trump any dress code that the school has.

      • Ambulance Chaser

        School dress codes don’t supersede the law.

  • meamsane

    This was the practice at the founding of the country. During Thomas Jefferson’s terms as President, he attended Church services in the House of Representatives and allowed Christian groups to use Federal Office buildings for their worship. If this was “UnConstitutional” as today’s atheists claim, The Framers never thought so!

    • RWH

      But you will also notice that they had their own church buildings built in a very short time.

    • Trilemma

      Even today, it is still constitutional for a church to use a public school building for worship on Sundays.

  • Dave R

    There is no such thing as “the separation of church and state” in the Constitution. Those words are not found there and the Founders never saw it that way. That ruling by the court was faulty, because it was not based on what the Constitution itself says, but on a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a church in Danbury, CT that had asked him for government help to solve a church/community issue. Jefferson responded by saying that the government cannot interfere in church matters. That there must be a “wall of separation” preventing that.

    The Supreme Court foolishly took that “wall” as a two-way blockade. But Jefferson specifically spoke about it blocking the State from taking part in church matters, not the other way around and the Constitution does not mention any such wall.

    Further, the court added to the letter what it did not say. If there were a *two way* blockade, then thd government would not have had a pastor saying prayers to open sessions, period.

    The Constitution does not mention *prohibiting the free exercise of religion in certain situations* as someone claimed, anywhere! In fact, it clearly and specifically says the exact opposite. That the government *cannot* *prohibit the free excercise thereof”. It does not mention any exceptions at all.

    With those Constitutional points being made, the final nail in the coffin of the “separatists”, is that this nation was not set up that way, nor did it operate that way.

    God is mentioned all over the place, prayer is said before government sessions and the biggest point of all that disproves the idea that religion must be kept out of government, is that the very first Act of Congress, was to purchess 20,000 Bibles for our soldiers. So not only did government allow religion into itself, but it also spent our tax dollars on it, without asking the ACLU. 🙂

    But let’s be honest about this. This is not about keeping “religion” out of government. The separatists and atheists (usually the same thing) don’t get upset when the government spends any money helping Muslims excercise their religion and that does happen. And IMO, if our government welcomed Muslim prayers to be said before government sessions, the ACLU, et al, would not object to it! They’d applaud it as, “a real step toward equality”!

    Their agenda is about removing the *Christian* religion from our nation!

    But why? Why *only* the Christian religion???

    Very simple! Jesus is a mirror who forces you to look at your own sin and they don’t like that! But what they also hate, is that not only does tbe cross make you understand that you’re a sinner, but it (the cross) also means that you can’t fix yourself! It is not under man’s control and people just hate that! It gets in the way of their ego and vanity! 🙂

    But what they do, is stop at the halfway point of the message, forgetting that *He rose*! And as Paul said, our faith is not in the cross, since if it stopped there, it would be a failed mission! Paul said; *If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins!*.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    I support religion. We need more in our schools

  • CEDavidson

    The ACLU always has to stick their nose into things, but this statement is just stupid. The idea that, because a student’s right to speak openly about his religion, he would say slavery shouldn’t have been abolished is ludicrous. I know of no religion that believes such things. Islam does, but then, Islam is not a religion. It’s a theocracy.