Indiana Senate Passes Bill Protecting Religious Expression in Public Schools

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indiana Senate has passed a bill meant to protect religious expression in public schools.

H.B. 1024 passed 44-5 on Thursday despite opposition from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“House Bill 1024 only puts prayer back into schools. It does not mandate or force students to participate in it,” said sponsor Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis. “It is giving Hoosiers the ability to express their faith without fearing discrimination.”

“It also brings clarification to the First Amendment, which allows people to practice their faith. However, it restricts you from forcing your faith on others,” he said.

The bill passed the passed the House 83-12 last month, and went on to clear a Senate Committee 8-2 weeks later.

“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,” the legislation reads in part.

It 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.

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A section of the bill that called for the creation of a limited public forum at school events was removed in a Senate committee earlier this month due to concerns about logistics.

“It requires the schools proactively to develop policies that control certain kinds of public events,” Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, remarked. “And I think the bill itself is going to be somewhat of a challenge for schools and school corporations to implement. But I think it serves a worthy purpose, and I think section five pushes it just a little too hard in that regard.”

Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, proposed to add voucher schools to the bill, but the idea was struck down in committee.

“In fairness, any school that receives public funding should fall under this bill,” he opined. “And again I think that if it’s good for public schools and charter schools, it would also be necessary for private schools that received vouchers.”

While some believe that the legislation is unnecessary, Bartlett says that the move will help provide guidance for schools that aren’t sure how to handle expressions of faith on campus.

“A lot of schools are afraid to have prayer in schools or allow their students to pray because they are afraid of a lawsuit,” he stated.

Student Mary Zakrajsek testified before the Senate Education and Career Development Committee that 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.

As previously reported, the first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.

“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.

Many of the Founders’ children learned to read from the primer.

Noah Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” also referenced Christianity, including in reading lessons statements such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.” Webster is known as the father of American education.

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  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Americans have been great only because of their Christian upbringing. Man is as great as only his clear and Christian-educated conscience. American children need Cristianity for salvation, morality, meaning, and wholesome education just like all others do.

  • Trilemma

    Allowing religious slogans on shirts is a bad idea. A shirt that says, “God is Love,” is okay but a shirt that says, “God hates gays,” is not because it creates a hostile environment.

    • Tyler

      “hostile environment” as defined by gays.

      You apparently wish to rule over everyone else.

      • james blue

        So you’d be okay with—

        “Jesus was gay” – “God doesn’t exist”- ” Allah is great,”- “Satan is lord” – “in the beginning man created God”……………?

      • Ambulance Chaser

        You really think a policy that says “No shirts that insult people” is an unreasonable restriction on your freedom of speech? What do you think would be a more fair policy?

        • Amos Moses

          “”No shirts that insult people” is an unreasonable restriction on your freedom of speech”

          people will be offended by kittens on a shirt ….. so yeah, that is unreasonable …… and vague and no real way to enforce it …… but in a school …. NO messages would be a good …………. it is a place for education ….. not sending “messages” ………

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Tinker v. Des Moines: students are Constitutionally permitted to send messages with their attire in public schools.

            “people will be offended by kittens on a shirt ….. so yeah, that is unreasonable …..”

            Doesn’t answer the question I was asking.

            “and vague and no real way to enforce it ……”

            Same way you enforce every other rule. Sometimes it comes down to a judgment call. Sorry, being a school principal is hard.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      I think there’s room in our laws to differentiate them. I wouldn’t want to ban students from wearing any and all religious apparel on the grounds that some student MIGHT wear an offensive shirt. I don’t think such a ban would even be constitutional.

      Banning shirts that attack a given group is fine with me. I don’t care what the reason is that they’re attacking that group (religious or otherwise), but attacks can–and should–be banned.

      • Trilemma

        The law could give some guidelines, but ultimately, it will be up to school administrators to decide what is acceptable and what isn’t. I think there’s enough gray area that there will be problems with whatever the school administrators decide. I think students will tend to push the limits of what is acceptable.

  • Dan Smith

    That means all religious expression, not just YOUR RELIGION…

    • Copyleft

      Indeed. I’m sure the proponents of this bill will welcome student calls to Allah, Vishnu, and Satan with equal respect.

      • Dan Smith

        But every knee will bow to Jesus and proclaim Him Lord of all one day whether they like it or not or believe it or not…

        • Copyleft

          Cool story, bro. And it’s just adorable that you believe that.

          • Dan Smith

            You better hope you are right because your eternity rests on it, and that is a long time to be wrong… like forever…

          • Copyleft

            Oh, look; another lame retread of Pascal’s Wager. Yawn. Better start praying to Allah, Vishnu, and Odin, just in case.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    The government should make the Christian schools free like public schools. It’s not fair that religious people have to pay for the atheistic and sodomic public schools which their kids never attend.

    • RWH

      I’m not interested in paying tax dollars to churches other than my own. If they feel that religious education is important, let them pay for it. We went through this back in the 1940s and 50s when the Catholic Church was demanding that we pay for their schools so that they could teach the Catholic religion.

    • Copyleft

      By that same logic, people without children shouldn’t have to pay taxes for schools at all. But that’s not how society works.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        You are wrong. All children must be taken care well by all adults since all adults were children at some point. Godless and childless people should not take any leadership because they do not care about children and therefore are destructive to nations. Christian USA was noble and helpful. Secular USA lives for destructive immorality and is meaningless.

        • RWH

          Grace. We have been through this over and over. We have no religious test for holding any position or office in the government, which includes the schools. We don’t want a state church. If we had one, it would be something not to your liking. Stop trying to make us what we are not and don’t want to be.

        • Copyleft

          …you DO realize you’ve just made an argument for national healthcare, right? “Because all of us have been sick before.”

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            I’m for partial national health care. It should not cover abortion or suicide or sex-change or tattoos or anything murderous and immoral.

  • Copyleft

    Any student can already pray, and no one has attempted to interfere with this. What they can’t do is PREACH, or expect special treatment and privileges from the school faculty in support of their activity.

  • Cheryl Semrau

    I wanted to email the above article but could not.

    • Sharon_at_home

      Copy the address and paste it into an email. That way they can link to the article.

  • Robert

    I,’am Lutheran so I only favor laws favoring only Christians in their having religious expression. Not other views. This Law the way it’s wrote can lead to the problem that people might think any god Will do . It is better not to have school prayer than have to include heathen prayers

    • airstart

      You make a valid point, however, Humanism is a religion also. If religious expression were to be removed from the public venue, the Humanist belief system along with it’s accompanying baggage like evolutionary theory, naturalism, and billions of years of earth history should go also. They are all faith based worldviews.

  • airstart

    If Muslims are allowed to wear the hijab, Christians, should be able to wear crosses, Jews wearing yarmulke and star of David symbols.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Secular nations should know that humans are a religious entity; prohibiting religious expression is like prohibiting the person himself.