Lawmaker wants religious liberties honored in schools
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
Known as the religious liberties bill, its author, Senator Chris McDaniel says it will simply uphold a child's first amendment right to freedom of religion and speech.
"These children do not give up their rights when they walk into the schoolhouse doors. They have every right to express those beliefs," said McDaniel, a republican from Ellisville.
McDaniel says the bill is not a way to mandate state or school sponsored beliefs but rather to clarify what students are allowed to express under the protection of the Constitution, whatever their religious beliefs may be.
McDaniel says, "Naturally, a religious expression could be anything that touches on any religious individual or any religious sentiment. That's pretty easy to see."
Whether through silent prayer, religious pendants or a book report on a religious figure, McDaniel says too often those expressions of religion are being suppressed because school leaders don't understand the ramifications of religious based court cases.
"What we don't want is just the over reaction from administrators where they just say, well anything religious can't be discussed because it can be discussed and these kids have rights and those rights have to be protected," said McDaniel.
From a reflection standpoint, Senator Hillman Frazier is behind a bill that would mandate a moment of silence in all schools. Currently state law allows school districts to decide. Frazier says he just wants to open a conversation and filed the bill on behalf of those he represents.
"We try to make sure that we address the needs of our constituents an when they have issues, try to accommodate them," said Frazier, a democrat from Jackson.
Both lawmakers say even if a form of religious expression may be offensive, it's still a right. To keep the peace, McDaniel's bill includes a provision that would allow school administrators to regulate or control religious expression or speech if it becomes disruptive.
"All we're trying to do is to make sure that these kids exercise their rights. That is a bill all Mississippians should be able to get behind no matter your religious affiliation," said McDaniel.
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