Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a bill on Friday that will protect the rights of religious students to lead public prayers and faith oriented gatherings in schools.
The Daily Caller reported that Scott signed the Florida Student and Personnel Religious Liberties Act allowing students of every grade to have the right to lead school prayers, pray privately, or participate in religious activities throughout the school day without the fear of punishment or discrimination.
Democrats and progressive groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the LGBT group Equality Florida slammed the bill saying it could cause isolation and discrimination against non-Christian students.
“(The bill is) religiously coercive, divisive, and unconstitutional,” said Democratic State Sen. Kevin Rader.
Republican State Sen. Dennis Baxley countered his claims to The Miami Herald by saying that it just protects the basic rights of religious expression.
“I don’t think we’re the ones that are intolerant at this stage,” Baxley told the Miami Herald. “Maybe that was true at some point in history, but right now, that’s not where the intolerance is coming from.”
Conservatives have said that they needed the bill in order to make it perfectly clear that religious expression doesn’t end when the school bell rings.
School prayer has been one of the biggest issues for the religious right since compulsory prayer and Bible readings were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1962 and 1963 in two landmark cases, Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp.