AU Opposes Va. Religion-In-Schools Bill

Virginia lawmakers have scaled back a bill that raised serious concerns about church-state separation in public schools.

In late January, Americans United urged the Virginia House of Delegates’ Subcommittee on Teachers and Administration Action to oppose HB 1135. The bill, dealing with religious expression in the public schools, would allow students to practice and profess their religious be−liefs in the classroom and at school-sponsored functions.

The measure, Americans United argued, could “readily be used as a way for students to proselytize to their fellow students in the classroom and to the school community at school functions.”

The bill was amended in early February before being approved by the House. The new version was considerably shorter and included safeguards.

Dena Sher, Americans United state legislative counsel, said the amended bill was an improvement, and that if it were to become law, it would likely not raise church-state concerns. She said Americans United would monitor the bill’s progress in the state Senate to ensure that it remains constitutionally sound.