Students in Utah public schools would have their religious rights strengthened under legislation being drawn up by a Republican state senator who says it would also teach educators "to protect student rights."
State Sen. Todd Weiler told The Salt Lake Tribune
that his bill — titled "Religious Freedom for Students — "basically affirms religious freedoms of students and public schools."
The measure is patterned after Mississippi’s recently enacted Student Religious Liberties Act, which protects the rights of students to express religious viewpoints, use religion in homework, form religious clubs, and wear religious symbols.
Such legislation would violate the Utah Constitution and possibly the U.S. Constitution, say Atheists of Utah, a group that opposes Weiler’s bill.
"It’s deeply concerning. It would allow for prayers to be said during morning announcements, at school-sponsored events, at football games, and other sporting events," Atheists of Utah President Dan Ellis told the Tribune.
"It sounds like it would force all students, whether religious or not, to participate in religious instruction by allowing prayers," Ellis said.
Public schools are banned by federal law from conducting religious observances.
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