S.C. Legislature Considers Several Troubling Bills

Pre-filed bills for the 2015 legislative session indicate that separation of church and state is under threat in South Carolina. These bills include two school choice measures that would create more opportunities for subsidies of private religious education.

Senate Bill 24 would allow parents to deduct the cost of private sectarian education, as well as homeschooling, from their annual state income taxes. Critics of the bill slam it for allowing special incentives for families who choose sectarian schools.

Another measure, Senate Bill 72, would permit public school students to  leave school during the day to receive religious instruction at a sectarian school. Students would also receive public school credit for the instruction.

Several other bills filed by officials friendly to the Religious Right concern LGBT rights. Senate Bill 116 would allow government clerks to opt out of providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and in the House, legislators have filed House Bill 3022 to prohibit the use of state funds for the licensing and support of same-sex marriage. Two bills would shore up legislative prayer in the state and even amend the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to ban restrictions on the practice.

Legislators will also consider a so-called “anti-Sharia” bill, although experts have not identified Islamic law as a threat to secular government in the state.