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VA Senate Committee Approves Constitutional Amendment on Prayer, Religion in Schools E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Wednesday, 30 January 2013

By a slim 8-6 margin, the Virginia Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections voted yesterday to approve an amendment to the state's constitution that would, among other things, provide broad public school students a sweeping right of exemption from assignments and activities they object to on religious grounds.

The amendment would...ensure that students could express their beliefs about religion “free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work.”

Chris Freund, a spokesman for the Family Foundation of Virginia, said the organization has pushed for the measure because of bans and legal battles involving invocations at public meetings or whether high school football teams may pray in the locker room before a game.

“It’s kids not being able to sing a song at graduation because the word ‘God’ is in the song,” Freund said. “I think Virginians are tired of it.”

But critics suggested the bill would be used to enshrine Christianity in schools and public life. Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) said the measure appears intended to sneak creationism into the schoolhouse.

Of course, if the invocation before a public meeting, prayer before a football game, or religious song at graduation, violates the First Amendment's guaranty of religious freedom, it doesn't much matter what Virginians do to their own constitution. Such activities, where prohibited now, would remain so. The same goes for the other major plank of the amendment: a provision allowing prayer on public property. Supporters of this measure rarely acknowledge that such prayer would still be protect by, and subject to, the First Amendment, but it would be.

For some reason, and I'll leave it to you to speculate, that plain truth is not stopping them from moving forward with this plan to alter the state's constitution. You can read Senate Joint Resolution 287 here. Stay tuned.


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