A bill that advances religious viewpoints in public schools has been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature.
The Massachusetts Family Institute, an affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, has succeeded in finding bipartisan sponsors for the measure, which would require school districts to create policies allowing “a limited public forum and voluntary student expression of religious views at school events, graduation ceremonies, and in class assignments, and non-curricular school groups and activities.”
Ron Madnick, president of the Massachusetts Chapter of Americans United, told The Boston Globe that HB 376 is a mandate for schools to make time at various events for students to share their religion or proselytize. Students already have opportunities to talk about their religion at school, he said, but it’s not constitutional for the school to give religious students access to a captive audience of their classmates.
“You can’t do it where people have to be in attendance and they have to be exposed to prayers and beliefs they don’t believe in,” Madnick said.
Americans United has warned against similar measures in other states. In 2007, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a “Religious Viewpoint Antidiscrimination” measure. In 2008, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a similar bill. And six other states introduced similar measures earlier this year, including Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Indiana, Kentucky and Arizona