An Indiana state senator has introduced a bill that would give the state’s public schools the option to require recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day.
Senate Bill 23 was filed by Republican Dennis Kruse, chair of the education committee. It would allow local school districts to require the revered Christian prayer “in order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen,” according to The Indianapolis Star.
The bill contains an opt-out provision for individual students and parents who don’t want to participate.
While the bill is likely to spark controversy, most observers of Hoosier State politics expect it to die quickly in the legislative session that starts Monday.
Indiana’s new Republican governor, former U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, has pledged to focus on economic issues and education policy. He isn’t likely to pick any fights on religion, notes The Star.
House Speaker Brian Bosma echoed that sentiment.
“We’re going to focus on what’s important: budget integrity, job creation and improving education,” Bosma told The Star.
David Long, the Indiana Senate’s President Pro Tempore and an attorney by trade, said that the bill is unlikely to pass constitutional muster.
“It’s a clear violation of the interpretation of the First Amendment by the United States Supreme Court,” he told The Star.
Sen. Long added that his colleague Sen. Kruse could have introduced the bill “to make a statement, not expecting a hearing.”
Bosma and Long are both Republicans.
Andrew Seidel, staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that spends its days policing the wall separating church and state, suggested that Kruse’s bill resembles a Florida law allowing school boards to resolve that students can choose to pray before school activities.
According to The Star, Seidel noted that no Florida school districts have passed such a resolution thus far, likely out of fear of an expensive court battle.
Eric Miller, who heads Advance America, a grassroots network supporting family and church initiatives in Indiana, told The Star he would “definitely look at” Kruse’s bill to see if his group could promote it.
Kruse, a long-time Indiana legislator and a member of the Indiana Auctioneer’s Association Hall of Fame, previously introduced a bill to teach creationism alongside the theory of evolution in the state’s public schools.