MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Despite majority opposition, a House panel in Alabama has passed a bill that would require public school teachers to open class with a prayer each morning.
Only two out of eight representatives on the Alabama House Education Policy Committee voted to approve moving the bill forward. Three voted against, and three did not vote.
According to House Clerk Jeff Woodard, the chairperson of each committee may decide to call the voice vote at their discretion. If no one disputes the outcome, then the voice vote rules.
Committee chairwoman Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Indian Springs), who voted for the bill, claimed to hear more yeas than nays during the vote and no one challenged her.
The law would not only allow, but require, school teachers to start each day with the same prayers used to open congressional sessions, and up to 15 minutes each morning would be allotted for prayer.
The legislator spearheading the bill is Rep. Steve Hurst (R-Munford), who argues, “If Congress can open with a prayer, and the state of Alabama Legislature can, I don’t see why schools can’t.”
Not everyone agrees. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has called the initiative “egregious,” further stating, “Using Congressional prayers does not, in fact, make this bill constitutional."
"A teacher-led prayer in a public school is undoubtedly different than a prayer in a legislative meeting. First, congressional prayers are directed only at the legislators themselves, who are adults, rather than young and impressionable students."
"Second, the opening prayers of a legislative session typically has an atmosphere where adults are free to enter and leave without notice. Students in a classroom, on the other hand, are a captive audience and legally mandated to attend school."
[Americans United for Separation of Church and State]