The Alabama House committee, despite majority opposition, without any regard to the 1st and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, and with complete disregard of McCollum v. Board of Education, has passed a bill that would require public school teachers to open class every morning with a prayer.
The religiously biased politicians in this case have done an end-run to put enforced prayer into public schools in the guise of teaching congressional procedure. They are not invoking religious privilege or claiming discrimination for not being allowed to pray within the confines of the school grounds in this case, but rather are specifying a 15-minute period at the commencement of the first class of each day to study the formal procedures of the U.S. Congress, which must include a verbatim reading of a prayer from the beginning of the House or Senate meetings.
Rep. Steve Hurst, who proposed the bill, stated, “If Congress can open with a prayer, and the state of Alabama Legislature can, I don’t see why schools can’t.” This statement contains a level of willful ignorance by Rep. Hurst that is quite astounding. The U.S Supreme Court ruling McCollum v. Board of Education is quite clear on this matter. Students in a public school are taking part in a compulsory and tax-supported education system. The imposition of prayer upon those students is a clear violation of the 1st and 14th amendments. Disguising it as a study of Congress is simply an attempt to skirt the laws to achieve the goal of indoctrinating youth into the church.
While it is true that Congress does have a prayer at the opening of their meetings (in my opinion a questionable use of their time), no person within Congress is compelled to remain for the prayer. As stated by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “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.”
The most incredulous part of this bill is that only Rep. Mary McClurkin, chairwoman of the committee, and one other Republican voted “aye” to pass the bill. Two other Republicans and one Democrat say they voted “no”, while three legislators were not present for the vote. But, the chairwoman says she heard more votes in favor than opposed and called it as such. House Clerk Jeff Woodard stated that the chairperson of any committee may decide to call a voice vote at their own discretion, and so long as nobody disputes the outcome the voice vote rules.