Thursday, March 07, 2013

Mississippi Legislature Adopts Student Religious Liberties Act

The Mississippi State Legislature has passed overwhelmingly and sent to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature S.B. 2633, the Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013.  The state Senate passed the bill by a vote of 50- 1 last month, and the House yesterday passed it by a vote of 109-6, with 5 not voting, absent or voting present. The bill prohibits public school from discriminating against students or parents on the basis of religious viewpoint or religious expression, including the expression of religious beliefs in homework or classroom assignments. It provides that students may pray, engage in religious activities and religious expression, and organize religious clubs and gatherings before, during and after the school day to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities. It calls for schools to adopt a policy that creates a limited public forum at all events at which students speak publicly, and sets out a Model Policy that meets the statutory requirements. The Model Policy includes provisions that allow students, selected under neutral criteria, to introduce football games and speak at graduation ceremonies without discrimination against religious views they espouse. AP reports on the bill's passage.

UPDATE: AP reports that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill on March 14.