- (Photo: SYATP)
A bill proposed in the Alabama House of Representatives would require a congressional prayer to be read in public school classrooms at the beginning of each school day.
Under House Bill 318 as much as 15 minutes would be set aside at the beginning of the first class of each day for the teacher to "instruct the class in the formal procedures followed by the United States Congress."
"The study shall include, but not be limited to, a reading verbatim of one of the opening prayers given by the House or Senate Chaplain or a guest member of the clergy at the beginning of a meeting of the House of Representatives or the Senate," the bill states.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Hurst (R-Munford), told the Anniston Star that teachers and principals will be allowed to choose which congressional prayers are read in the classroom. He also says HB 318 would help educate students on the topics of civics and history.
"They could read the prayer from the day war was declared in World War II," he said. "They could read the prayer the day after Sept. 11."
Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement emailed to The Christian Post that the bill "is an attempt to circumvent the United States Constitution and force a captive audience of children to be subjected to daily prayer."
Watson noted that the state-sponsored recitation of prayer in public schools has already been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. She also pointed to a 1985 case in which an Alabama law authorizing a daily moment of silence for prayer or meditation in public schools was declared unconstitutional.
"State legislators can pass whatever they want, but the schools must abide by the United States Constitution," she said. "The legislators can legislate with no repercussion to themselves, and with this they are opening school districts up to costly and time consuming litigation."
But Hurst says the congressional prayers should be allowed in schools. "If Congress can open with a prayer, and the state of Alabama legislature can, I don't see why schools can't," he told the Anniston Star.
The bill was scheduled to be discussed Wednesday in a public hearing before the Education Policy Committee in the state's House of Representatives.