Virginia Lawmakers Debate Religious Freedom in Schools

Feb 26, 2014

Virginia's House of Delegates has approved a Senate bill that may not become law, but has the makings of a legal battle if it does.  The bill affirms the First Amendment rights of students to religious expression in the public schools.  It also requires each school division to adopt a policy that allows students to express a religious viewpoint at any event in which a student is allowed to speak publicly.

The bill affirms that students may voluntarily engage in religious expression, activities, and clubs to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious ones. The bill made it through the Senate by two votes.  And in the House, advocates argued that it's needed to prevent school divisions from being sued when students express religious views. Delegate Scott Lingamfelter added that it’s a concept the founding fathers would embrace.

But Delegate Joe Morrissey says while he supports the First Amendment, this bill has flaws.

On a 64-34 vote the bill passed the House and now heads to Governor McAuliffe, who has said he will veto it.