KY Senate tackles religious expression in schools

FRANKFORT – In response to a school’s prohibition of scripture readings in a public school’s stage adaptation of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the state Senate passed a bill relating to the expression of religious viewpoints in public schools by a 31-2 vote today.

Senate Bill 15 would set forth in statute what some protected activities for students are by enumerating the rights of students to express religious and political viewpoints in public schools – including state universities. That would include homework, artwork, speeches and religious messages on items of clothing.

“We live in times in which much political and religious expression … is under attack by those who want opposing viewpoints removed from the public square,” said Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, a sponsor of the bill. “There is truly no constitutional reason students can’t perform all of the play just because of the reading of scripture.”

SB 15 would also enumerate the rights of religious student groups to access school facilities during non-instructional hours the same way non-religious organizations do and to use school produced media to announce such meetings.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he had concerns about the constitutionality of SB 15 but that issue was not enough to stop him from voting for the measure.

“I’m a firm believer in the free expression of art and non-censorship in art and literature,” he said. “We ought to have, as a society here in Kentucky, the freedom to express our religious opinions in school and on the sports field.”

Thomas said his concern was a provision in SB 15 that referenced the Bible but not the holy books from other religions.

“That provision is going to prove troublesome if this bill becomes law,” he said. “Having said that, I don’t think we should ever get to the point of taking an individual’s free expression of religion out of schools.”

Sen. Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort, also supported SB 15.

“It is just a restatement of the current law,” he said. “There is no new law in this bill.”

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