South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) mission to “restore protections for prayer in schools” failed last Friday after the GOP-dominated House Education Committee rejected her efforts.
As Faithwire previously reported, last month, Noem’s administration drafted the bill, “A Moment of Silence.” The proposed legislation sought to provide kids an opportunity to “pray in schools at the start of every school day.”
Atheists and secular activist groups immediately expressed fears over the proposal. Rather than mandate overt prayer, though, supporters noted the bill required the creation of a moment in public schools each morning during which students could reflect on the day ahead.
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Text of the bill specifically noted that it would not offer permission or a pathway for schools to intentionally use the moment of silence to implement a “religious exercise.”
Furthermore, the governor said in a statement she was hopeful pupils and teachers would use the time to offer an invocation or other reflective exercise. However, the use of the time was, again, entirely voluntary.
“Every student deserves the opportunity to begin their day with a calm, silent moment,” Noem said in December. “I hope students will take this opportunity to say a quick prayer or reflect on their upcoming day. However they choose to take advantage of this time, it will be beneficial to students and teachers alike.”
These caveats did little to appease critics, including some in Noem’s political party. After education groups also expressed concern and argued voluntary prayer is already available in schools, the House Education Committee opted to kill the proposed legislation in a nine to six vote, the Associated Press reported.
State Republican Rep. Will Mortenson was among those who spoke out about the confusion he sensed in the bill’s text.
“Maybe it’s me, but I view prayer as something that is personal and not performative,” he said.
It’s unclear what will happen next, though the AP noted the legislature could pick the bill back up if one-third of House members opt to do so.
Noem’s attempted prayer move follows her successful 2019 quest to have “In God We Trust” displayed in all public schools.
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