Indiana’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Monday that, if adopted by the Senate and signed into law, will allow students to pray and express their faith on school grounds without facing fear of discrimination, according to WRTV-TV.
House Bill 1024, proposed by Democratic state Rep. John Bartlett, will disallow discrimination of children who decide to pray in school or show their faith in other “non-disruptive ways” before, during or after school hours, as the outlet noted.
“House Bill 1024 only puts prayer back into schools. It does not mandate or force students to participate in it,” Bartlett said of the measure, according to WRTV-TV. “It is giving Hoosiers the ability to express their faith without fearing discrimination.”
The bill implores schools not to “discriminate against a student or a student’s parent on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression” and allows for student expression of religious beliefs about faith “in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments.” The measure also covers religious clothing and symbols, saying they are permitted.
Other elements impacted by House Bill 1024 are student speech — as the bill would make available “a limited public forum” for students who wish to include religious content at certain events — as well as the overt permission and encouragement for Indiana high schools to offer an elective course that covers world religions.
“This just gives them that same clarification that you can legally do today is pray, as long as you’re not forcing anybody and you’re not making them do so,” Rep. Lloyd Arnold (R-Leavenworth) said of the measure, according to WTHR-TV. “So I would…to me, this is my America. Hopefully it’s a lot of people in this room also, from the aspect that we should have those freedoms and be able to do so freely.”
Naturally, there’s some debate over the bill, with some saying the measures enshrined in it are already permitted in schools, and others — including the American Civil Liberties Union — worry that the bill could create newfound confusion.
But many people say there’s still profound confusion over the separation of church and state and what’s truly allowed in public schools, and see House Bill 1024 as a potential legislative option to help bridge those divides.
The bill, which passed in the House 83-12, is set to be taken up in the Indiana Senate.
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