I had some concerns about finding a topic this week for two reasons. First, Congress has been out of session this month so there’s not much going on. And second, I’m on vacation and didn’t want to have to knock myself out on it. I just needed someone in Congress to introduce a bill so blatantly violating the First Amendment and the separation of religion and government that this would write itself. Thank you, Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, for introducing the National Prayer in School Act on August 11th.
Despite six decades of constitutional certainty about the illegality of school prayer, Congressman Gaetz has introduced a bill to make it legal. His bill essentially says that “every person” who prevents “any citizen” from praying in school can be sued by that person. Any school official who tells a teacher they can’t lead the class in prayer could be sued. To be clear, prayer is already legal in schools. Kids can pray before math tests. Teachers can pray on their lunch hour. They just can’t do it in front of students or lead students in prayer. That’s the line the Gaetz bill would cross.
These and other bills face court challenges and may eventually get the Supreme Court to clarify how far it will go on specific school prayer policies. As we are learning, on the establishment of religion the Constitution means what the majority of the current nine Justices says it means.
Congressman Gaetz, an attorney, knows his bill is the opposite of a bill that observes the Supreme Court precedents on school prayer, and that it has a zero chance of passing the Senate or being signed by the President. It’s a stunt bill designed to please Christian nationalists and raise campaign money. Nonetheless, it needs to be opposed, derided, and denounced. Please use our Action Alert to tell your representatives that you oppose coerced school prayer and that they should oppose the Gaetz bill should it come for a vote.