First Amendment and religious liberty advocates are cheering after a new state law went into effect earlier this week.
In Florida, a major victory for religious students has been won. The recently passed law allows students to refer to their faith in their schoolwork, wear religious symbols, and the right to pray without interference, according to the Conservative Tribune. By allowing Christianity to be more openly displayed and discussed in public schools, we are moving one step closer to getting the United States back on track.
The bill, signed into law last month by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, also notes that schools are not allowed to prohibit students from wearing clothing or jewelry with religious messages, nor can schools stop students from starting their own student prayer groups.
The law stems from a backlash of students and parents complaining that Florida schools are attempting to repress any religious expression, especially Christian expression, for fear of potential liability. Instances of this are numerous. In 2014, a story surfaced in which a 12-year-old student from Broward County was told he was forbidden from reading his Bible during his free period.
In Pasco County, a superintendent reminded the high school football coach that they were not to pray with their teams before any of their games in order to avoid a “misunderstanding ” (via Tampa Bay). In a particularly notable case, a Florida teacher prohibited some of her students from wearing small Christian necklaces in her class, claiming that it was a “gang symbol” and that it was disrespectful. Christian students reported they felt fearful of ever wearing a religious symbol in her class again. (via The Blaze)
“This is an equality bill. It prohibits discrimination,” said Anthony Verdugo, founder of the Christian Family Coalition of Florida. “I don’t think there’s a member in the legislature that supports discrimination.”
Mat Staver, chairman of the Liberty Counsel, also defended the law as well, saying that “Having this in the statute will be very beneficial. Schools don’t want to be sued… and people don’t want their religious rights violated.” (via Daily Caller)
This law comes as a step in the right direction to restoring the true meaning of “free exercise” in the First Amendment, and hopefully it will stand as an example for other states to follow. Many believe the Supreme Court’s decision in 1962 to remove the Bible and prayer from public schools correlates to increases in crime and violence within the U.S.
William Jeynes, professor at California State College, spoke to the Heritage Foundation in 2014 about this very same topic, stating that since removing the Bible, the U.S. has seen an increase in drug use, juvenile crime, out-of-wedlock births, and plummeting academic achievement. “We need to realize that these actions do have consequences,” Jeynes said, according to CNS News.
His sentiments are spot on, as the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1962 are clearly felt as our nation’s values have shifted away from what made us a beacon of freedom for the world. Hopefully, this victory in Florida may be the turning point in re-embracing our Judeo-Christian foundation.