Florida Senate Panel Advances School Prayer Bill

A Florida Senate panel has voted to advance a bill that would let state school boards allow students to offer prayers at school events.

The bill, SB 98, passed the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee 4-1 on Nov. 1. The lone dissenting vote came from Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R). Bogdanoff, a Jew, support the bill at first but changed her mind when the legislation was amended to remove language that said the prayers must be non-sectarian.

“Not having that language in there gives me pause,” Bogdanoff said, according to a Nov. 2 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

This is the third year the bill has been introduced by Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando), and this legislation has drawn opposition from Americans United chapters in Florida, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League.

In a Nov. 1 letter, eight AU chapters told the Senate committee that “this bill would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is disrespectful of the religious diversity that makes our state and nation great.”

The legislation makes its next stop in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then it would have to be approved by the Senate Rules Committee before the full Senate could consider it.

The House of Representatives has not yet had a hearing on its version of the bill.