by Pat Drago
For many of us, our faith permeates our lives. Religion, however, not only comes in many forms, it is based on strong emotions, and controversy is as old as mankind. In modern times, waves of immigration brought people together whose religious faiths differed. During the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, the issue came to a head over how to teach religion in schools. President Grant and Senator Blaine proposed a solution, keep schools and religion separate. A U.S. constitutional amendment failed, but 38 states passed their own version of the Blaine amendment to separate church and state. Florida was one of those states.
Public opinion wafts and wanes over how best to keep a moral center for our children. The issue has once again reached the Florida legislature when HB 303 Daniels and SB 436 Baxley were filed to allow religious expression in schools. The bills are framed to prevent districts from penalizing parents, teachers or students who express their religious beliefs in course work, artwork, or other assignments. The bill goes on to authorize students to pray, organize prayer groups and religious events, and states that districts may not prohibit teachers from participating in student initiated religious activities.
Pat Drago, who was a former senior executive in Volusia County schools, offers some background on the role of religion in schools.
The First Amendment to the constitution remains in effect in public schools: