ATLANTA - Students and faith leaders gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Monday to show support for a bill that would allow prayer back in schools.
House Bill 816, also known as Georgia Student Religious Liberties Act of 2016, would allow “students in local schools (to) pray or engage in religious activities or religious expression before, during, and after the school day."
It's an uphill battle for supporters, who are fighting a decades old Supreme Court ruling that banned prayer in school.
“(In) 1962 the Supreme Court made this ruling and, what we've noticed since the Supreme Court ruling, there has been an increase in violence, murder, teen pregnancy, divorce rate,” said Sabrina McKenzie with the Legislative Clergy Council. “If you don’t think prayer is the answer, then what is the answer?”
Members of McKenzie’s group joined several Morehouse College students and faith leaders with signs in support of the bill. Similar rallies are also happening in seven other states.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia says it will fight the bill. The executive director, Maya Dillard Smith, told Channel 2’s Craig Lucie, “There is a concern that the law specifically creates a limited public forum, which means the government then gets to decide more leeway on what speech is included and what is not. You could have a hodge podge of laws from county to county.”
The ACLU also said the way the law is written now, it may lead to unintended consequences, which could then lead to lawsuits down the line. It said it wants to educate lawmakers behind the bill.
Mark Banks from the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Georgia released a statement:
"With regard to all of the "Religious Freedom" bills circulating at the State Legislature, they are all essentially unconstitutional and contradict the civil rights laws on the books now.
If any of these bills pass they would allow anyone to claim their religion as a reason to discriminate against anyone for any reason. This is just another example of our politician trying to use our Secular government to impose their religious doctrine on everyone. Most of these politician are also pandering to the Christian fundamentalist for votes."