Senate passes school religious freedom bill

02/10/2017 12:00 PM

FRANKFORT – Legislation reasserting student rights to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments, was passed by the Senate on Friday by a 31-3 vote.

Under Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, students would be free to distribute religious materials and teachers could use the Bible for teaching about the role of religion in America’s history.

The bill has been opposed by organizations such as the ACLU of Kentucky who say that students and teachers are already protected under the U.S. Constitution. On Friday, Robinson said many school administrators and teachers have been afraid to teach and express beliefs for fear of law suits.

“We’re trying to bring it to one statute where everybody, the principal, the superintendents, parents or anybody can refer to KRS whatever this turns in to be. It makes it easy to understand and gives a basis for people to do this without retaliation,” Robinson said.

Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, supported the legislation saying that he fears the ramifications of not teaching kids values in the classroom.

“We outlawed the Bible and anything related to it several years ago,” Carroll said. “There’s always a consequence when you change a law, and in this instance, quite candidly, we had a consequence where we failed to continue teaching moral values in our school system.”

Carroll agreed with Robinson that many school districts have shied away from including any references of religion for fear of retribution and found it easier to ban any discussion of it whatsoever.

“The lawyers may understand it, but our school teachers don’t understand it, many of our administrators don’t understand it, our principals don’t understand it, and the result is they take the careful path to make sure they comply with the federal constitutional mandate by the Supreme Court and so we don’t use any reference to the Bible to teach a student not to cheat, not to lie,” Carroll said.

Carroll added a floor amendment that was passed unanimously by a voice vote which took out language that stated that “a teacher shall not observe holidays as religious events or promote such observances by students.”

Three Democrats, Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, and Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, cast no votes.

SB17 now moves on to the House for consideration.


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