Located in the Bible belt, Alabama has been a battleground state for school prayer, with state lawmakers supporting prayer in schools as recently as 2015.
According to the Huntsville Times
, the Student Religious Liberties Act became law in May 2015. It was signed into law on the National Day of Prayer by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. The bill is designed to stave off threats of lawsuits regarding the rights of students to pray in school. It does not go any further than the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing student-led prayer initiatives. The law clarifies how educators can and should react when student’s express interest in this kind of religious expression.
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In the past, Alabama has been at the center of several cases concerning prayer in public venues. In 1985, the Supreme Court found an Alabama law which called for a “moment of silence” to allow for personal expression of prayer unconstitutional. In the Wallace v. Jaffree case, justices said the Alabama law went too far toward allowing educators to conduct religious services in the classroom, according to the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law.
They found that the state was not maintaining a neutral position towards religion and violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
However, lawmakers in Alabama have not been swayed. Current Alabama code provides for elementary school students to be required to take part in a moment of silence in the classroom. The statute states: “At the commencement of the first class each day in the first through the sixth grades in all public schools, the teacher in charge of the room in which each such class is held shall announce that a period of silence, not to exceed one minute in duration, shall be observed for meditation, and during any such period silence shall be maintained and no activities engaged in,” according to FindLaw.
Teachers are also allowed to lead “willing students” in prayer with a specific prayer as follows
: “Almighty God, You alone are our God. We acknowledge You as the Creator and Supreme Judge of the world. May Your justice, Your truth, and Your peace abound this day in the hearts of our countrymen, in the counsels of our government, in the sanctity of our homes and in the classrooms of our schools in the name of our Lord. Amen.”
The legislature has also authorized a period of “quiet reflection.” These 60 seconds at the beginning of every school day and athletic event or graduation is outlined to not be a religious exercise.
Currently, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is threatening a lawsuit
over the state's Religious Display Freedom Act, which allows religious displays, such as nativity scenes on government property.
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