By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
June 17, 2014
Less than a week after the House approved a bill to remind North Carolinians that freedom of speech and freedom of religion still apply inside the state’s public schools, the Senate concurred 48 to 1 on Monday passing Senate Bill 370 — Respect for Student Prayer/Religious Activity — into law.
“This is a victory for students and school personnel of all faiths as it helps clarify their constitutional rights to religious expression,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, “rights that have in recent years been trampled at times by well-meaning administrators believing that state-funded schools must be ‘God-free’ zones. That is simply not the case.”
The law, highlighting the fact that religious speech should be treated no differently from non-religious speech, confirms that students can openly discuss faith related issues or reference their religion via classroom or homework assignments without fear of being given a lower grade should their beliefs contradict with those of a teacher. It also solidifies students’ rights to pray and to assemble for religious reasons, again affirming that a faith-based club should have access to the same facilities and benefits as secular groups. Additionally, the law includes a grievance process for students who believe their rights have been violated.
A more controversial portion of the measure clarifies that employees may be present during student-led prayer and may adopt a respectful posture.
“There was some concern about this in the House because of cases in other places in which courts had ruled against a coach for bowing his head,” said Dr. Creech. “But truly, teachers should not feel forced to deny their faith any more than they should feel coerced to fake a belief they do not have for the sake of their jobs. The new law simply reiterates that they ‘may’ adopt a respectful posture. It’s about choice — that’s what freedom of religion is all about.”
Having passed an earlier version of the bill in the last session, the Senate moved quickly to concur with the House substitute. Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe), appointed to the Senate in April, was the only member to vote against the bill.
Take Christian Action:
To learn more about Students’ Rights in Public Schools, phone the Christian Action League and request a seminar on the topic by Dr. Mark Creech. The CAL office may be reached at (919) 787-0606.